Sri Lankan refugees returning home

June 20, 2009 at 4:51 PM

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, June 20 (UPI) -- A United Nations agency says it is helping thousands of displaced Sri Lankan residents return to their village homes.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said in a news release Friday it helped 2,231 people return to Sri Lankan villages June 6 in the wake of the defeat of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels.

Many villages in northwestern Sri Lanka have been abandoned for years as a result of the rebel group's 25-year-long clash with government forces.

"Most of the villages in this area were deserted. The only signs of life before the recent returns were soldiers or cattle left behind when people fled," Pathmanathan Sivananthan, one of those displaced by the violence, said. "I thought it was time to come home."

UNHCR official Roka Kudo said the U.N. agency was working to make residents' return to their homes sustainable by offering aid packages containing emergency supplies such as hurricane lamps and clothing.

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