UN Calls for Stepped up Pace to Resettle Tamil IDPs

With a shooting incident blowing the covers off the inhuman conditions forced on Tamil refugees by the Sri Lanka government, the United Nations on Tuesday underlined the need to step up the “very slow” pace of resettlement of thousands of Tamils displaced in the government’s decisive war against Tiger rebels.

On Saturday, soon after Walter Kaelin, UN Secretary-General’s representative for refugee rights, ended a three-day visit to the island, at least two refugees were wounded when soldiers fired on a group the military said was trying to escape the camp.

“The use of firearms to control a group of internally displaced persons trying to move from one camp zone to another that resulted in injuries to two persons raises serious human rights issues,” said Kaelin in a statement released on Tuesday.

Sri Lanka is under heavy pressure from the West to resettle the more than 260,000 people being held in camps since the end of a war with the Tamil Tiger separatists in May.

Kaelin said the impending monsoon which was likely to flood the present camps not built for long-term stays, were a cause of worry.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has pressed for urgent resettlement, and has himself been criticised for not taking a tougher line with the Sri Lankan government.

Sri Lanka, however, says it must identify and weed out any Tiger rebels that may have masqueraded into the camps along with civilians and also demine the former war zone.

“I remain particularly concerned about the slow pace of identifying those in the camps who do not pose a threat to security and the lack of transparent criteria in this regard,” Kaelin said.

The Lanka government says some 15,000 refugees have been released since the end of the war in mid-May, UN figures suggest only 12,000 odd have been sent home.

(Based on Media Reports)

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