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Security Hampers Aid Delivery to Sri Lankan Displaced


The International Committee of the Red Cross says aid workers are facing greater difficulties and dangers in efforts to reach displaced people in Sri Lanka with essential relief. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from ICRC headquarters in Geneva the agency is appealing to all warring factions in Sri Lanka to guarantee the security of aid workers.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says the killings of several aid workers this year has put humanitarian operations at risk. Red Cross Spokesman, Marcel Izard, tells VOA, the killers of three murdered members of the Sri Lankan Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement still have not been found.

"What we still ask the Sri Lankan government is to go behind those killings and that the police find out who is behind this because definitely for humanitarian aid we need safety," he said. "We need safety to be able to deliver the aid which is urgently needed for the displaced people in the north and in the east."

One aid worker was abducted December 14 by unidentified gunmen in the northern Tamil city of Jaffna. His body was found two days later. On June 1, two Red Cross staff members were murdered in the capital, Colombo.

Besides these tragedies, Izard says people continue to flee their homes to escape the constant flare-up of fighting between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels. He says the Red Cross is particularly troubled by allegations of attacks against civilians, disappearances, and child recruitment.

He says nearly 50,000 newly displaced people are living under difficult conditions in the Tamil districts of Batticaloa and Trincomalee.

"These people-they are recently displaced-normally they try to settle in public buildings, which is temples or schools," Izard said. "Many of them have relatives so they squat inside the house of other people and they have to share a very narrow space to live. And, some other people who have nothing and they will get a tent or a tarpaulin plastic sheet and those people are obviously the worst affected because we have now the monsoon rain."

Izard says both Batticaloa and Trincomalee are flooded and the plastic sheeting people receive is the only protection they have against the wind and rain. He says the displaced have lost all their belongings, so the Red Cross is providing them with essential items.

ICRC delegates also carry out regular visits to people detained by the government. During the past two months, Izard says delegates carried out visits to nearly 900 prisoners in 41 places of detention. He says the Red Cross transmitted hundreds of messages between the detainees and their families.

He says delegates also are visiting four Sri Lankan sailors and one soldier captured by the Tamil Tigers.

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