06/19/2009, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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The tragedy of refugees in Sri Lanka, hidden from the eyes of the world

by Nirmala Carvalho
There is still no precise data on the number of people living in the centres. Colombo media do not speak of the plight of the internally displaced persons. An operator allowed into the Chettikulam camp states: “The Colombo government is only concerned with one thing: finding remaining members of the LTTE and killing them”.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - “Small children are suffering malnutrition and a lack of medicines.  There are young girls who are pregnant, between 17 and 19 years of age, in need of care… the government has no capacity at all to handle this massive problem, no news so far has come out in the news papers in Sri Lanka, the rest of the nation is kept in dark regarding the situation of the refugees”.

This is how a social worker recently describes the situation for the internally displaced persons (Idp) held in the refugee camp in Chettikulam 12 kilometres from Vavuniya to AsiaNews. He had visited the camp before (see AsiaNews 05/06/2009) and now he says: “some of our friends returned there yesterday and report that the situation is still serious”.

Prasanna – a pseudonym to protect his anonymity – says that in Chettikulam there are more than 300 thousand people and added to that number, refugees who live in smaller camps dotted around the area of Mannar and Jaffna. But he adds that “there is still no data on the precise number of the refugees”.

“No one speaks of the IDPs – says Prasanna - not a single photo is allowed out of the camp,  no papers write anything about it,   people do not know about the great tragedy is going on in their country”.

The social worker appeals to the international community, “and in particular to the Indian government”, to show greater concern for the plight of the refugees.  “The only interest of the Colombo government - says Prasanna - is to find more Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam members who are living in the camp and kill them”.

UNHCR has taken satellite photos of the area occupied by the Chettikulam camp, “an immense area subdivided into different and separate zones”, the AsiaNews source explains. “The military brought us to one are and told us to help the people there.  We have not been allowed to visit other zones.  The area is so vast that it is impossible to estimate how many people are being held there”.

 

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