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News Articles on the Internally Displaced People (IDP) in Sri-Lanka

June 21, 2009

Only a few lines from each article have been reproduced. Please click on the title to read the article

Asia News – The tragedy of refugees in Sri Lanka, hidden from the eyes of the world

By Nirmala Carvalho

There is still no precise data on the number of people living in the centres. Colombo media do not speak of the plight of the internally displaced persons. An operator allowed into the Chettikulam camp states: “The Colombo government is only concerned with one thing: finding remaining members of the LTTE and killing them”.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – “Small children are suffering malnutrition and a lack of medicines.  There are young girls who are pregnant, between 17 and 19 years of age, in need of care… the government has no capacity at all to handle this massive problem, no news so far has come out in the news papers in Sri Lanka, the rest of the nation is kept in dark regarding the situation of the refugees”.

Reuters – Aid gets into Sri Lanka camps, few people get out: U.N.

By Laura MacInnis

Humanitarian aid is getting into Sri Lanka’s war displacement camps, but very few of the 280,000 people they house are being allowed out, the top United Nations aid official said on Friday. U.N. emergency relief coordinator John Holmes said survivors of the brutal civil war that Colombo declared over in May needed to be permitted to resume normal lives in order to ease tensions in the country’s northeast.
Aid vehicles carrying food, health and other supplies are now gaining access to the camps which were closed to trucks in the first days after the 25-year fighting stopped, Holmes told a news conference in Geneva. “We do have pretty much full access to those camps at the moment,” he said, noting that problems with overcrowding and inadequate water and sanitation facilities with the onset of disease-spreading monsoon rains were gradually being overcome.

Channel 4 – After the rout, fears for Sri Lanka’s Tamils

By Jonathan Miller

Eyewitnesses interviewed during a week-long undercover investigation for Channel 4 News told of thousands of civilian deaths as government forces advanced on the Tigers’ final stronghold.

The deaths, they said, were the result of government shelling. The Sri Lankan president and senior government ministers have repeatedly denied causing a single civilian death in what the government had desginated a “no-fire zone.”

International aid agencies believe as many as 100,000 civilians may have been trapped inside, under a fierce bombardment.

“I think every day a thousand people were killed,” one of the very last to escape the tiny enclave told us. He was referring to the final two weeks of the conflict, during which the Sri Lankan government claimed not to have used heavy artillery.

Asian Human Rights Commission – SRI LANKA: Registers on entry and leaving of internally displaced persons needs to be created urgently to prevent forced disappearances

Every day 20 to 30 young persons are taken away and their whereabouts are unknown, a leading human rights organisation in Sri Lanka, INFORM, reported this week. The source of information is the testimonies of the relatives of the IDPs who have visited the camps. There are severe restrictions on civil society organisations and the media visiting the camps.

In an interview to the BBC Sinhala Service, a spokesperson for the organisation said that persons wearing hoods are brought into the IDPs camps and that they indicate by signs as to whether one of the IDPs had connections with the LTTE or not. If identified positively the IDPs are removed from the camps and their whereabouts are thereafter unknown. The spokesperson referred to the practice of using ‘Gonibilla’ (the bogeyman). On previous occasions, like the time of the JVP suppression between 1987 and 1991, many persons were identified in this manner and later removed. Many such persons have thereafter been treated as forced disappearances. The official figure of these disappearances in the 1987 to 1991 period is around 30,000. Unofficial figures give a larger number.

Anglican Media Melbourne – Protect democratic rights, Bishop tells Sri Lankan president

By Anto Akkara

The Anglican bishop of Colombo has warned against harassment of civil rights activists and those seeking to serve the displaced in Sri Lanka following the government’s victory over ethnic Tamil rebels. “We must become a nation in which every woman, man and child, regardless of religion or ethnicity is made to feel equal, free and proud to call themselves Sri Lankan,” Anglican Bishop Duleep de Chickera of Colombo said in a press statement. Chickera’s 5 June statement followed the kidnapping and assault of Poddala Jayantha, the secretary of the Working Journalists Association, who has been a critic of the government’s final military offensive against Tamil rebels.

BBC – Youth ‘disappear’ from IDP camps

An international award winning human rights activist in Sri Lanka says that nearly 20-30 youth have been disappearing from camps in Vavuniya daily. But Sri Lanka government rejects the accusation.

Sunila Abeysekara told BBC Sandeshaya that rights activists have received credible reports of regular abductions in the camps. “We accept that the government has the right to search the camps for security reasons. But our concern is that there is no formal registration process,” she said.  She says it is reminiscent of the ‘era of terror’ in late 80s when the state security crushed an armed uprising by the Sinhala youth led by JVP.

Christian Today – Looming health crisis in Sri Lanka sparks ‘grave concern’

by Aaron J Leichman

One of the largest Christian relief and development agencies in the world is “gravely concerned” that impending monsoon rains and inadequate sanitation will place tens of  thousands of people at risk from disease in displacement camps in northern Sri Lanka.

The sanitation facilities in the largest camps where most of the displaced are living are “woefully inadequate”, according to World Vision, and at least 11,500 more latrines are needed in the camps to comply with international minimum standards.

WSWS – Sri Lankan police interrogate doctors who witnessed war crimes

By Nanda Wickramesinghe

The Sri Lankan government is continuing to detain and interrogate three doctors—Dr Thurairajah Varatharajah, Dr Thangamuttu Sathyamurthi and Dr V. Shanmugarajah—who risked their lives to provide medical care to thousands of Tamil civilians caught in fighting between the army and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

With journalists and most aid workers barred from the war zone, the government-appointed medical officers provided a glimpse into the horrific conditions facing over a quarter of a million civilians in the small LTTE-held enclave. Their testimony provided first-hand evidence of the war crimes being carried out by the Sri Lankan military in shelling civilian areas. Their makeshift clinic was hit several times in the last weeks of fighting.

HRW – Sri Lanka: End Illegal Detention of Displaced Population

Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Nearly 300,000 Tamils Enduring Poor Conditions in Camps

The Sri Lankan government should end the illegal detention of nearly 300,000 ethnic Tamils displaced by the recently ended conflict in Sri Lanka, Human Rights Watch said today.

For more than a year, the Sri Lankan government has detained virtually everyone – including entire families – displaced by the fighting in the north in military-run camps, in violation of international law. While the government has said that most would be able to return home by the end of the year, past government practice and the absence of any concrete plans for their release raises serious concerns about indefinite confinement, said Human Rights Watch.

IRIN  – SRI LANKA: “Too many people” at huge IDP camp – UN

Conditions at a huge government-run camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sri Lanka are still unsatisfactory, the UN’s top official in the country told IRIN, despite some improvements.

“The fundamental issue is that there are too many people in too small a place,” said Neil Buhne, the UN resident coordinator in Sri Lanka, adding:“We think it is the largest IDP camp in the world.”

In the past two months over 210,000 people have flocked to the camp, leaving aid agencies struggling to cope, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

BBC – UN concern over Sri Lanka camps

Most of Sri Lanka’s displaced people could still be kept in government-run camps in one year’s time, a UN official has told the BBC quoting army sources.

But the government rejected the suggestion, saying that it aimed to resettle most by the end of this year.

About 250,000 people fled the final bloody phase of the civil war between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels.

Meanwhile, a human rights group accused the government of failing to probe rights abuses during the conflict.

AFP – Sri Lanka camps a ‘national disgrace

The Sri Lankan government faced renewed demands Friday to free nearly 300,000 war-displaced civilians, who fled Tamil Tiger rebel territory, from tightly guarded state-run camps.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said the squalid camps, which are ringed with barbed wire, were a “national disgrace” and violated international law.
“For more than a year, the Sri Lankan government has detained virtually everyone, including entire families, displaced by the fighting in the north in military-run camps, in violation of international law,” the group said.

Amnesty – Sri Lanka: New Amnesty report reveals inability of Sri Lankan government to deliver justice

The Sri Lankan government’s failure to deliver justice for serious human rights violations over the past 20 years has trapped the country in a vicious cycle of abuse and impunity, according to a new report published by Amnesty International today.

The report, ‘Twenty Years of Make-Believe: Sri Lanka’s Commissions of Inquiry’, documents the failure of successive Sri Lankan governments to provide accountability for serious human rights violations, including enforced disappearances, killings, and torture.

BBC – Sarath Nanda Silva condemns ‘internment’ of Sri Lankan Tamils

Catherine Philp, Diplomatic Correspondent

Sri Lanka’s Chief Justice has lambasted the Government publicly for holding more than 280,000 Tamil civilians against their will in military-run camps, questioning the legality of their detention.

Sarath Nanda Silva, who retires at the end of the month, chose the opening of a new court complex for his attack on the policy of interning Tamil civilians.

“They live outside the protection of the law of the country,” the country’s top jurist, an ethnic Sinhalese, said of the camp dwellers. “I am saying this in public, and ready to face any consequences. We are doing a great wrong to these people.”

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