Two hazards for Sri Lankan displaced civilians

October 7, 2009

I have two issues on my mind about the displaced civilians being held in internment camps in Sri Lanka:  (1) will the camps be able to cope with the coming monsoon rains, and (2) are the civilians safe in the camps now?

On the first issue, a British minister visiting the camps said Tuesday that freedom of movement for the displaced was critical now, especially with the rains expected soon.  (Amnesty International has been calling on the Sri Lankan government to allow the civilians to leave the camps if they wish; for more information on this topic, please see our Sri Lanka page.)   The BBC was allowed to accompany the minister as he toured the camps and heard heartrending pleas from the displaced civilians about poor conditions in the camps.  The Sri Lankan government has said that the camps will be ready for the monsoon, although a UN expert who visited the camps last week expressed serious concerns about whether the camps would be equipped to deal with the heavy rains.

On the second issue, the UN refugee agency said last week it was concerned for the safety of the displaced civilians in the camps, after an incident on Sept. 26th in which some civilians attempting to move between areas of a camp were stopped by the security forces.  The angered civilians then attacked the security forces who responded by opening fire, resulting in several injuries, including a child who is now paralyzed.

As the visiting British minister said, allowing displaced civilians to leave the camps would do much to address the first issue.  I think it would also help a lot on the second issue; allowing people more control over their own lives would do a lot to ease any bitterness or tension.  If you haven’t already, please consider joining in our Unlock the Camps campaign and ask the Sri Lankan government to restore freedom of movement now to the displaced civilians.