08/18/2009, 00.00
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260 thousand Sri Lankan refugees in danger from floods. HRW calls government "inhuman"

The authorities have blocked access to the area to activists and journalists. The Government claims it needs to complete the census of displaced persons to rule out “rebels among the civilian population." UN agency launches the alarm: stagnant and contaminated water, toilets out of order. Outbreak of epidemics feared.

Colombo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The heavy rain falls in the north of Sri Lanka last weekend threaten the lives of 260 thousand displaced Tamil, locked up in camps and unable to flee. The alarm launched by Human Rights Watch (HRW), defines government behaviour "illegal, dangerous and inhuman" and calls for their release. Meanwhile the authorities have restricted access to area for activists and journalists, explaining that the centres will not be evacuated because "some members of the rebel Tamil Tigers (LTTE) may be hiding among the refugees."

The monsoon season begins in two months, but since August 13 the area has been hit by heavy downpours that have flooded several areas. Activists fear the outbreak of epidemics and are sounding the alarm. The UN agency for humanitarian aid confirms the flooding of much of the refugee camp Manik, a huge complex west of Vavuniya, a city of the Northern Provinces, where almost 2 thousand shelters were destroyed. One hundred toilets are no longer practicable as they are submerged by mud, and the water is stagnant and contaminated.

A HRW source in Manik confirms that the area surrounding the refugee camp is subject to flooding during the rainy season: "If we are not allowed to leave before -  a woman of 30 years named Aanathi warns – we will swept away by  water, there will be many epidemics. It will be terrible”.

The Government of Sri Lanka said that about a thousand people were moved to elevated areas of the camp. Rishard Badurdeen, Minister for the resettlement of the IDPs, said that those who were affected by the flooding "are well and have food, water and other comforts."

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, brother of the president and defence minister, added that "there are terrorists of the LTTE mixed among civilians" and fears that the attacks could resume if the centres are opened. The government insists that "the census of the refugees must be first completed" to exclude infiltrated rebels. HRW’s response is direct: "The government has blocked the population in these areas and is putting at risk their health and their lives - complains Brad Adams, Asia director for the association – by keeping them locked up [centers] during rainy season. This is illegal, dangerous and inhumane".
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Government sets up Tamil committee, a trick for the opposition
Jaffna bishop tells government that refugees must go home as soon as possible
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