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Safety and security of IDPs of foremost concern – Reports on IDPs in Kantalai and Batticaloa

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Amidst continuing displacement due to ongoing fighting in eastern Sri Lanka, a fact-finding mission by FORUM-ASIA's member organization INFORM has found that the safety and security concerns of IDPs have not been given priority when temporary relocation sites are chosen. The report stresses that the Sri Lankan government and the international community must ensure that IDPs are treated with dignity and rights and are relocated to sites where there are no possible threats to their safety and security.FORUM-ASIA’s partner organisation INFORM conducted a fact-finding mission to Kantalai on 12 December 2006 and Batticaloa from 13-15 December 2006. In both of these locations, it was evident that internally displaced persons (IDPs) are suffering extreme undue hardships, significantly more so in Batticaloa.  

Sinhala IDPs fleeing to Kantalai are trying to escape heavy shelling in and around Kallar, Seruvila, Serunuwara and Mavil Aru area that began on 9 December.  Many of the 4,135 people arrived by foot, avoiding impending shells along the way.  Numbers in the camp are fluctuating as many males are returning to their villages to tend their fields as it is a critical time during rice production.  The conditions in the camps are poor, including insufficient toilet facilities and shanty housing.  The IDPs were generally well-received even though there was the perception that the government did not intend to provide sufficient housing if there is the need for long-term placements.  The camps had government officials and health workers that were making a sizable contribution.

In Valaichchenai and Batticaloa, IDPs commented that they felt as though they were surviving in lawless territory, rife with broad-daylight abductions, including those of children.  Relocations sites were chosen seemingly without much concern for security issues, considering that there are ongoing confrontations between the LTTE and the breakaway Karuna faction.  The numbers of IDPs escaping Vakarai that had reached government controlled areas since the 13th of December was close to 10, 000.  Some had arrived by boat, resulting in deaths from boats capsizing; many were suffering from chills.  In Batticaloa, there were attempts being made to call attention to the flagrant human rights abuses, particularly allegations relating to the Karuna faction working alongside the security forces and child abductions; many expressed a lack of confidence in existing complaints mechanism and procedures.  

In particular, the report stresses that not all IDPs are being treated equally.  Those coming from Vakarai are viewed with suspicion by both the security forces and the paramilitaries and have had to endure arduous screening processes by both groups.  Without being first registered and having their basic needs attended to, there is the threat that people may disappear during interrogation or suffer from medical complications.  Thus, the safety and security of IDPs must be of foremost concern when choosing relocation sites.  

Read the full report here (in .pdf, 25kb, 5pp.).