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Displaced Tamils in dire straits

A consortium of U.N. agencies and international NGOs operating in Sri Lanka has said the monsoon has put the 200,000-odd internally displaced persons (IDPs) at grave risk due to the lack of transport and fuel.


 “Lack of transport and fuel is hampering movement for many IDPs seeking safety along the A35,” a report by the consortium said.


“On average, Rs. 12,000 is being charged to rent a tractor to transport IDPs and their belongings from Kilinochchi to Visuvamadu, and as much as Rs. 24,000 from Kilnochichi to PTK in Mullathivu district. There are reports of people pawning their jewellery and other valuables to pay for transportation.”


The report said the security situation in the JaffnaPeninsula remained tense, especially in areas near the forward defence lines (FDLs).


The International Committee for Red Cross separately said as fighting in the north continues, many people continue to flee eastwards, leaving Kilinochchi for Mullathivu, often leaving their personal belongings behind.


“Food, shelter, clean water, sanitation and, above all, security remain the most urgent concerns for the tens of thousands of displaced civilians living in LTTE-controlled areas in the north,” Anthony Dalziel, deputy head of the ICRC's delegation in Sri Lanka, said in a statement.


Sri Lanka last month told aid agencies to quit the northern Wanni region, saying their safety couldn't be guaranteed while fighting is taking place.


The government rejected criticism from Amnesty International that civilians are being ignored and said it is providing assistance for refugees.


The ICRC said, while it isn't directly involved in distributing food in Wanni, it is helping others arrange food convoys to the area.


Meanwhile, with the onset of monsoon rains expected later this month, temporary shelters for displaced civilians in the district have become a most urgent requirement, reported the Sunday Times.


Government officials in the area are struggling to provide IDPs in the area with basic facilities as more than 50% of them are without proper housing or toilet facilities, the paper said.


Due to heavy fighting between government forces and the LTTE, most residents in the area do not stay at home during the night, with many families returning home during the day to collect goods from homes or gardens and returning to shelters before nightfall, the paper said.


Separately, the British government has said that the number of displaced is estimated to be closer to the 500,000 mark.


Attending a private member's debate in the Westminster parliament, Under Secretary of State on International Development, Michael Foster, MP, said a majority, approximately 220,000 people are repeatedly displaced in the north.


"At least 30,000 people have been displaced on average five times," he said.


The British minister reiterated the government view that there can be no military solution to Sri Lanka's national question.


He was responding to issues raised by members from all major political parties on the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka, reported the BBC.

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