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The ongoing violence in Sri Lanka has resulted in 213,000 new refugees, the U.N. humanitarian affairs office said Thursday, asking donors for US$66 million (€51.13 million) in aid to carry out support programs in coming months.”The recurrence of violence and hostilities in the north and east of the country since April 2006 has impacted negatively upon the humanitarian situation of the civilian population — a situation already strained by prior conflict,” the U.N. agency said in a statement.

“Nearly 213,000 people have been newly displaced in the past nine months, bringing the total number of displaced persons in the country to over half a million,” the statement said.

UNHCR and its partners are also trying to ensure that people can continue to earn a living in the area, where the important fisheries sector has been hit by recent fighting between government forces and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Restrictions have been placed on fishing hours.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the local fishing cooperative are working out ways for lorries to pick up the daily catch so it can be transported to the major markets in southern Sri Lanka. UNDP is also helping to improve road access.

“Selling fish in the south will help us earn a better income for our families. We’ll be able to get a higher price for our catch,” said a community leader in the neighbouring village of Bastipuri.

The positive response of the community towards the confidence-building measures has encouraged UNHCR and other agencies to look for new ways to add value to the lives of the displaced community and to expand the programme to other areas.

UNHCR is jointly leading the implementation of similar measures in the north and east of Sri Lanka. Activities include legal assistance, restoration of services and protection monitoring. Meanwhile, the refugee agency continues to advocate for the voluntary and sustainable return or relocation of displaced persons, based upon the individual’s informed decision.

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