Helping displaced Sri Lankan citizens begin againWEBIn Sri Lanka’s eastern province, the Center for Human Rights (CHR) has launched a drive to provide legal documents for those displaced by the civil war that ended in 2009.

During the 25 years of conflict, almost half a million Sri Lankans were displaced. As people fled the fighting, many personal documents were lost.

When a birth certificate or national identity card is lost, marriage licenses, voter registration cards and other important documents cannot be issued or verified. Re-issuing these documents is a complex process. Many of the people now returning to their homes are from rural and impoverished areas. They lack the skills and resources to correctly file the proper legal forms.

CHR is a partner with our America's operation, MSI, in implementing USAID’s project called Support for Professional and Institutional Capacity Enhancement (SPICE) Program.

The project is providing funding to the centre to help issue vital identity documents to more than 8,000 displaced individuals. The documents are a necessary step in reintegrating citizens into society and ensuring access to basic rights such as voting, education and public services.

CHR is working in collaboration with the Sri Lankan Department of Registration of Persons.

Since November 2013, our team has helped citizens acquire 2,074 national identity cards and 2,200 birth certificates. Thirty seven couples were also able to formally register their marriages. Among them were M. Gunabanda (85) and D. M. Anulawathie (52) who had been together for nearly four decades but lacked the proper documentation to be formally registered as a married couple.

A series of clinics were held in remote locations in the eastern province in partnership with government officials to help with document processing. In one location, these clinics enabled applicants to complete applications that same day.  Citizens were provided assistance filling in applications, preparing necessary supporting documentation, acquiring certified photographs, and lodging appeals with the police in the case of lost documents.

An awareness program was run to explain the procedures so that applicants could understand the process and spread the knowledge within their community.

The second stage of the program started in December.  The goal is to provide 6,000 more civic documents to those in need.

This appeared on MSI's website, our America's operation.