Sri Lanka has lifted a ban on issuing passports to its citizens who sought refuge in other countries due to political or conflict-related reasons.

A Foreign Ministry circular issued Wednesday night rescinded a decision made by a previous government in 2011 to not issue passports "to those who had applied or gained refugee status or asylum in another country unless they have renounced their refugee or asylum status."

The statement said those instructions violated citizen's rights and caused hardships to "many Sri Lankans who were forced to leave the country for political reasons and denied a Sri Lankan travel document."

An exact number is not known, but it is thought that thousands were forced to flee Sri Lanka during a more than two-decade long civil war that ended in 2009.