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Tamil are re-detained into another camp

September 18, 2009


Lawmaker: Sri Lanka re-detains released refugees

AP – A Tamil woman holds a portrait of her missing relative

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Hundreds of Tamil war refugees the Sri Lankan government said it had released from military-run camps last week were simply moved to other detention centers, a lawmaker said Thursday.

Mavai Senathiraja, a parliamentarian from the Tamil National Alliance, an opposition party representing ethnic Tamils, also alleged that thousands of others who were promised freedom remain in the camps.

His claims came as a top U.N. official toured the camps in the north of the country where nearly 300,000 minority Tamils forced from their homes by the civil war are being detained. The 25-year war ended in May when the government routed the Tamil Tiger rebels.

Human rights advocates have called on Sri Lanka to immediately release all the civilians held in the camps and have warned that monsoon rains due to start next month could create a public health crisis.

The government has refused to open the camp gates, but says it will resettle 80 percent of the displaced by the end of the year, after land mines are cleared from their villages.

To buttress that promise, the government announced last Friday it had released 9,920 people and sent them to their homes in the country’s east and north.

Senathiraja said 6,000 of those promised release last week were from his constituency in northern Jaffna, but only 580 arrived in the area and all of them were immediately sent to another camp, where they continue to be detained.

“There is no resettlement. This is like being sent from one prison to another prison,” he said.

In the eastern districts of Ampara and Trincomalee, many returning war refugees were being held in schools that have been turned into makeshift camps, he said.

Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe declined to comment on the charge, saying he just returned from abroad. Presidential adviser Basil Rajapaksa, who is overseeing the camps and resettlement, did not return a call seeking comment. Three other government ministers were either out of the country or did not answer their phones.

A government official in Ampara confirmed about 130 people who had been released from a camp in the north were being held until they received security clearances and their homes were repaired. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.

With concern for the civilians growing, U.N. Undersecretary General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe has come to Sri Lanka to visit and evaluate the camps and urge the government to quickly resettle those inside.

“I also met with people in the camps who want to leave and return to their homes, but cannot do so, and are understandably growing impatient and anxious about their future,” Pascoe was quoted as saying Thursday in a U.N. statement.

Pasco is also expected to raise with the government reports of wartime human rights abuses. He is to meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday.

Separately, Philip Alston, U.N. investigator on extrajudicial executions, called Thursday for an “independent and impartial investigation” into a video that purports to show Sri Lankan troops killing naked, blindfolded men during the civil war.

Sri Lanka’s government says four separate studies have concluded that the footage — released last month by a German-based group and shown on British television — was doctored. It denies government forces carried out extrajudicial killings during the war with the Tamil Tiger rebels.

Speaking in Geneva, Switzerland, Alston said none of the studies cited by Sri Lanka appear to be independent because at least three of the four persons involved had government links.

The Tamil Tigers fought for a separate state for Tamils, claiming decades of discrimination by the Sinhalese majority. The U.N. says between 80,000 and 100,000 people were killed during the war.

Reuters : Sri Lanka’s released refugees moved to new camps

At least half the 10,000 war refugees the Sri Lankan government said it sent home last week are still being held in transfer camps in their home districts, refugees and the government said on Thursday

…Lynn Pascoe, head of the U.N. political affairs department, was on the Indian Ocean island to meet with government officials and raise the world body’s concern that refugees were not being returned home swiftly enough

…A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said about 45 percent of the 10,000 moved from Menik Farm last week had been sent home. Human Rights and Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe confirmed some of them were still in transfer camps.

BBC Sinhala – Sampur IDPs ‘still in camps’

Over 6000 internally displaced people (IDPs) from the east are still in camps, a latest study reveals.

Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) which carried out the study says these families are still living in transit camps in Batticaloa and Trincomalee districts.

The government announced capturing all areas held by the LTTE in the east in July 2007.

Meanwhile, a site in Sampur, Muttur east, is selected by the government for a coal power plant.

It has led to authorities establishing a high security zone (HSZ) in their ancestral lands, IDPs representatives say.

The Welfare Association for IDPs from Muttur East (WAIM) has expressed shock over government decision to establish the HSZ to protest a thermo power station to be built by India.

Paddy fields

WAIM president, K Nageswaran, told BBC Sinhala service, Sandeshaya that over 1600 families were displaced from Sampur during the conflict.

“These people were cultivating over 3500 acres of paddy filed and there are over 600 acres of residential land in this area,” he said.

Although the thermo power plant only requires 500 acres of land, Mr. Nageswaran said, a high security zone (HSZ) is established covering 9000 acres.

“We urge the authorities to give our land back at least in areas other than where designated for the power plant,” he said.

A parliamentarian representing the area said that nearly 7000 people have lost their ancestral lands as a result of government establishing the HSZ.

“These people have lived here for over 2000 years. We have also raised this issue with the Indian government,” K Thurairetnasingam, MP, told BBC Sandeshaya.

Minister for Power and Energy, John Senerviratne, admitted that some of their land will be given to the coal power plant.

Although not every IDP will be resettled in their original lands, he said, many remaining IDPs will soon be resettled.

However, the CPA points out that the government action amounts to relocating the IDPs according to UN definitions.

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