10/23/2009, 00.00
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Government announces 41,000 Tamil refugees going home

by Melani Manel Perera
Some 12,000 families began leaving refugee camps yesterday on their way to Mullativu and Kilinochchi districts, former Tamil Tiger strongholds. About 160,000 people remain in refugee camps. The Indian government calls for faster repatriation.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – The Sri Lankan government has begun resettling refugees in their places of origin. As of yesterday, more than 41,000 Tamil refugees representing 12,000 families began leaving refugee camps to be resettled in their home districts of Mullativu and Kilinochchi. For Basil Rajapaksa, brother and adviser to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, this is the fastest resettlement programme in the world.

According to the authorities, 10,017 people are going to Poonakary and Karachchi, Kilinochchi district; 6,631 will travel to the city of Mannar; 16,394 to Oddusudan, Manthai-East and Thunukkai, Mullativue district, and another 2,583 families will be resettled in Vavuniya. They will join another 50,000 who were resettled in the past few months.

The government will provide each family with Rs 25,000 (US$ 220), kitchen utensils, farm implements, and roofing sheets to start a new life as well as six months worth of dry rations.

In a letter to each IDP family, President Mahinda Rajapaksa reiterated his government’s goal of providing them with a “new” and more “acceptable” life, whilst reminding them of the “violence” perpetrated by the rebels.

The resettlement programme is coming a few weeks after President Rajapaksa met a delegation of Indian lawmakers and reassured them that resettlement would be done by mid-October.

In New Delhi, Indian officials seem satisfied with the IDP resettlement programme, but Preneet Kaur, one of India’s ministers of state for External Affairs, said that it should go “faster”.

Indian authorities are worried about sanitary conditions in IDP camps because the rainy season is just around the corner. With rains flooding the camps, the emergency is bound to get even worse.

Even with 41,000 going home, most refugees, about 160,000 in all, are still in camps.

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See also
London criticises Sri Lanka, offers aid on condition prison-like camps for Tamil refugees be closed
Government sets up Tamil committee, a trick for the opposition
Dead or alive, Tamil Tiger leader’s fate sealed
Journey through Sri Lanka’s refugee camps, where life is a daily struggle
Jaffna bishop tells government that refugees must go home as soon as possible


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