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Sri Lanka's tourism industry leads to 'systematic human rights abuses'

Sri Lanka's large scale developments in the tourism industry are leading to systematic human rights abuses, says a report released by the Society for Threatened Peoples Switzerland (STP), calling on European travel agencies to be vigilant on human rights issues.

“The report shows that systematic human rights abuses have been taking place as a result of tourism development in the country,” said the STP and the Sri Lankan Campaign in a joint press release. “Fishermen have seen their access to the sea blocked, land grabbing has taken place and the local population are insufficiently, if at all, informed about planned tourism projects.”

The report, Dark Clouds over the Sunshine Paradise – Tourism and Human Rights in Sri Lanka, also details the extensive involvement of Sri Lanka's military in the island's tourism industry. “The military is increasingly focusing its budget on tourism with the army, navy and air force opening hotels all over the country and increasingly offering tourist activities,” said the report.

“The military are deeply entrenched within the tourism industry,” said Fred Carver, Campaign Director of the Sri Lanka Campaign.

"While tourism can be a tool for positive change the tourist industry in Sri Lanka is established in such a way that the benefits fall into the hands of a very few people with links to the ruling elite, and the local population - particularly in Tamil areas - are at best completely bypassed by the industry and at worst victims of rights violations as a consequence of the industry," added Mr Carver.

British, Swiss and German travel agencies were criticised by the organisations, which called for the businesses to be more vigilant and “regularly monitor and ensure the exercise of due diligence concerning human rights.”

“The Sri Lankan government is trying to promote the image of a country that has returned to normality,” said STP's report. “Despite the troubling human rights situation, at least 49 German and 21 Swiss travel agencies and their British subsidiaries offer hotels in the three tourist regions,” added the statement.

“It is the corporate (social) responsibility and due diligence of travel agencies to systematically request these from their local partners and to verify their observance on a regular basis.”

See the full report here.

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