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SRI LANKA – Refugees to be resettled but total access remains a challenge

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22 May 2009: Sri Lanka and India have issued a joint statement to declare that the former has indicated that it intends to dismantle its relief camps immediately.
Sri Lanka has also outlined a 180-day plan to resettle the refugees to their places of origins.

The government plans to extend its dialogue efforts with all parties
including Tamil parties to improve the political situation and bring
about peace and reconciliation.

The statement , which came as a result of a meeting between India’s
Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, National Security Advisor M.K.
Narayan and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa also today showed
India’s commitment to provide support in demining, civil infrastructure
and the construction of houses.

This seems to be contradictory to the claims of the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who claimed that the government planned
to keep the refugees in what they labeled as “concentration camps.”

Official figures released by the Defense Secretary, Gotabaya
Rajapaksa in the pro-military TV yesterday stated that the death toll
was over 6,200 soldiers, where 30,000 were wounded in the final stage
of the war, which began in July 2006.

Despite Sri Lankan Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights,
Mahinda Samarasinghe, statement that the government welcomes “anyone
who wants to compliment the troops of the government but they have to
work within a national framework,” full access to refugees remains

According to the observations of UN Secretary General’s chief of
staff, Vijay Nambiar, who visited camps in the Vavuniya area, access to
international aid access and limited freedom of movement continue to be

Full access to the refugees is still not possible.
A UN official claimed that government bans on the use of motor vehicles
by UN staff and aid workers hampered their missions to the war torn

Meanwhile, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers has
claimed that they have received verifiable reports of child abduction
from the camps in Vavuniya, reportedly committed by paramilitary Tamil

Former fighters who fought with the Sri Lankan army were being
allowed full access to the camps as they were given the task of
identifying and reforming former LTTE child soldiers.