Information on the social networks available to the elderly in Colombo [LKA23863.E]

The following information was provided in a 23 May 1996 telephone interview with a community worker from the South Asia Women's Community Centre. For additional information on the South Asia Women's Community Centre, please consult the fax attachment in Response to Information Request LKA19476.E of 9 February 1995.

The source stated that to the best of her knowledge, she is aware of two forms of social assistance available to seniors in Colombo, but did not feel she could comment authoritatively on the general situation of elderly Singhalese in Colombo.

Sarbothaya is an organization in Colombo that helps all lower-income groups, including seniors in need, by providing food, shelter and small sums of money on an infrequent basis. The organization also has some housing facilities available.

The government provides a program that is known as the "purpose allowance" or "poor-related allowance", which is a monetary stipend given to a senior on the basis of his or her personal income and savings. The program is not universal and there is a long waiting list to get on the program. In order to apply for the government program, the senior must also have a referral from the assistant government agent, a local government official who is involved in the daily administration of the district or village in which the senior lives.

The source stated traditional Sri Lankan culture is based on the extended family: the elderly parents would live with and be cared for by their children's families. Due to the civil unrest, however, there has been a displacement of individuals, including elderly people who have been separated from or lost their families. This phenomenon has primarily affected Tamils living in the north of the country.

The source indicates that unaccompanied Tamil seniors from Jaffna who have moved to Colombo and been separated from their families face particular difficulties. They are without traditional means of family support and, according to the source, may face discrimination because of their ethnic background. Elderly Tamils in Colombo are encountering difficulties in accessing government services because they do not have proper residency rights nor are they likely to receive the nomination of local authorities to gain access to these services. These problems are compounded by language difficulties for elderly Tamil speakers, which also aids in identifying their ethnicity.

Please find attached an excerpt on elderly persons in Colombo from a January 1996 report from the Canadian High Commission in Colombo.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the DIRB within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Corroboration could not be made in the time constraints available. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


South Asia Women's Community Centre, Montreal. 23 May 1996. Telephone interview with a community worker.


Citizenship and Immigration, International Services Group (ISG). 24 January 1996. Letter including report "Conditions for Tamils in Sri Lanka: An Overview", dated January 1996 from the Canadian High Commission in Colombo, p. 5.

Sources Consulted

Citizenship and Immigration, International Services Group (ISG). Infrequent reports from missions abroad. 1995 to present.

Minority Rights Group International . Monthly. No. 96/1. Sri Lanka: A Bitter Harvest.

The Sri Lankan Monitor. Sept. 1995-Feb. 1996

Tamil Information: News Bulletin of the Tamil Information Centre. Bi-monthly. July 1995-Feb. 1996.

Tamil Times. Monthly. Dec. 1995-Apr. 1996.

US Committee for Refugees. Oct. 1991. Sri Lanka: Island of Refugees.

On-line search of media sources.

Oral Sources