Sri Lanka: are releases of displaced civilians genuine?

October 8, 2009

Amnesty International has been calling on the Sri Lankan government to grant freedom of movement to over 250,000 displaced civilians now being held in internment camps in the north.  The government has said that it can’t allow civilians to leave the camps until they’ve been screened to determine if any of them are connected to the opposition Tamil Tigers.  (For more information on this subject, please see our Sri Lanka page.)  The Sri Lankan government has announced releases of some of the civilians.  But are they actually being released?

Amnesty has received reports that some of those released have apparently been transferred to other camps where they may be subjected to additional screening by local authorities.  The UN has also reported that some of the displaced civilians have been transferred from the camps and are now being held in transit sites in other areas with restricted freedom of movement.  The UN refugee agency last week said that they were concerned about approximately 3,300 displaced civilians who’ve been held in transit sites for more than two weeks rather than being returned to their homes.  A British minister visiting the camps this week said that the British government funding couldn’t support people simply being transferred from one “closed” camp (meaning, a camp which people aren’t free to leave) to another closed camp.

The displaced civilians should be immediately allowed to leave the camps if they wish.  Unlock the camps now!