News

UNHCR Welcomes Greater Freedom for Sri Lankan Internees

But it is concerned that many of these releases may only be temporary

Lisa Schlein

The United Nations refugee agency welcomes the Sri Lankan government's decision to allow increased freedom of movement for some 135,000 internally displaced people in 20 internment camps.  But it is concerned that many of these releases may only be temporary. 

The U.N. refugee agency says it is encouraged Sri Lankan authorities finally have allowed tens of thousands of Tamils to leave their internment camps freely.

The international community has criticized the Sri Lankan government for restricting the movement of about one-quarter million Tamils.  They have been confined to camps since May when the government declared its long-running civil war with the Tamil Tiger rebels officially over.

U.N. refugee spokesman, Andrej Mahecic, says field staff reports thousands of internally displaced people have left their camps and people are continuing to leave. "Generally, IDPs (internally displaced persons) who wish to leave the camps are provided with a pass issued by the local authorities.  These documents include details such as the district of origin, date of departure, and date of return to the camp, temporary address for those who will remain away from the camps overnight and details of family members.  This pass will also represent some form of identification for those who do not yet have their national identity card," he said.

Mahecic says UNHCR teams tell him many people left their belongings in the camps.  He says this indicates they intend to return there. 

He says some of those interviewed told the UNHCR they wanted to visit friends and relatives in other camps in Vavunya town, and the centers where those suspected of having links with the Tamil Tigers are being held. "While authorities say that there is no time limitation to the freedom of movement, there were reports that IDPs would only be allowed to stay away from the camps up to 10 days.  Many are also scheduled to return to areas of origin in the coming days and weeks under the government-organized return plan.  Our teams also report, in general, people are happy to go back to their areas of origin where more basic services, such as health clinics and schools are reopening," he said.

The UNHCR says it hopes this new freedom of movement continues.  It says it also hopes de-mining efforts keep pace with the rapid rate of returns.  It says it will continue to follow up on these issues with the authorities.

The UNHCR is providing money for shelter and non-food relief items to all returning families to help them get resettled in their homes.  Mahecic says the UNHCR is monitoring the situation and conditions in the areas of return to identify gaps in assistance.
 

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs