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UN Urges Release of Displaced Civilians in Sri Lankan Camps

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A United Nations human rights envoy is urging Sri Lankan authorities to accelerate the release of more than 250,000 people who remain confined in overcrowded displacement camps.

Walter Kalin, a U.N. representative on internally displaced people, said Tuesday the release of the Tamil civilians in the northern camps is becoming a matter of urgency.

He said the situation is especially worrying because of the approaching monsoon season. Kalin said the displacement camps are not equipped to deal with heavy rains, and flooding could cause serious threats to health and life.

The U.N. envoy visited Sri Lanka last week and met with government officials to discuss the camp situation.

Kalin said allowing civilians to return home is necessary to gain the confidence of the Tamil community.

Sri Lankan officials say they must screen the camp detainees to determine if rebel Tamil fighters are among the civilians.

The detained civilians have been held in the military-run camps after they were displaced by fighting between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa recently promised that all of the displaced civilians will be resettled in the next four months.

The Tamil civilians have been held in the camps since government forces defeated the rebels in May, ending the country's 25-year civil war.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.