Sri Lanka: while day passes are good, freedom would be better

October 2, 2009

There was some news this week regarding the internally displaced civilians in northern Sri Lanka.  Amnesty International has been campaigning for the civilians to be allowed freedom of movement; currently, most of them have been held in overcrowded camps which they are not permitted to leave, until the Sri Lankan government has completed a screening process to determine whether any of the civilians have links to the Tamil Tigers.  (For background on this story, see our Sri Lanka page.)  This past Monday in Geneva, the Sri Lankan Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights told the Executive Committee of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees this past Monday that:

“The authorities in charge of maintaining the camps have also put in place a system of day-passes whereby IDPs [internally displaced persons] who need to attend to specific wants, ranging from attending a family wedding to visiting their bank in a nearby town, can leave the camps for a limited period of time.”

This was the first I’d heard of a day-pass system.  I think it’s a welcome development.  However, it doesn’t substitute for the freedom of movement the displaced civilians are entitled to.  The Sri Lankan government should immediately allow the displaced civilians to leave the camps if they wish.  Unlock the camps now!