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Government sets deadline to close Tamil refugee camp

January 31, 2010 - SRI LANKA

The Sri Lanka government plans to close the camps where it has detained internally-displaced Tamil civilians since the defeat in May of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Some 300,000 Tamils fled the fighting during the final offensive, and some 160,000 have been held in the makeshift camps. Criticised for detaining them, Colombo insisted that detention was necessary while the refugees were being screened for possible links with the rebels and while their home areas were de-mined.

The Sri Lanka government plans to close the camps where it has detained internally-displaced Tamil civilians since the defeat in May of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Some 300,000 Tamils fled the fighting during the final offensive, and some 160,000 have been held in the makeshift camps. Criticised for detaining them, Colombo insisted that detention was necessary while the refugees were being screened for possible links with the rebels and while their home areas were de-mined. Outside the camps, there are also tens of thousands of displaced people waiting to return home. The refugees were told they could return to their villages ahead of the camp closure, and were reported to be free to leave for their villages from Dec 1. Colombo says they will be resettled by 10 Jan 2010. The problem is that many areas are no longer habitable after the fighting, and there is no sign the government has organized alternative resettlement sites. The Tamil Tigers had been fighting since the mid-1970s to carve out a separate nation in the Sinhalese-majority island. An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 people were killed in the violence. Dec/09

Sri Lanka Tamil refugee camps 'to be opened next month' (BBC 26 Nov 2009)

Date written/update: 2010-01-31