Sri Lanka has 200,000 refugees displaced by conflict, UN says

Other News Materials 29 April 2009 01:04 (UTC +04:00)

Tens of thousands of Sri Lankans are still trapped in conflict zone while some 200,000 others remain in swollen refugee camps waiting for relief assistance, the top UN humanitarian coordinator said Tuesday.

John Holmes said continued fighting between government troops and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels in the northern part of the country has exacerbated conditions for both populations. He said LTTE rebels have so far refused to let go civilians trapped by the fighting, which he described as the first crisis facing the government.

"The second crisis is the swollen camps that are filling up with 200,000 people who fled the fighting, many in very poor condition, with more likely on the way soon," Holmes said.

Holmes met Tuesday with President Mahinda Rajapakse and renewed concerns over the civilian casualties and the urgent need to assist those trapped in the conflict zone. His remarks were made available at UN headquarters in New York.

"Given the fact that the LTTE has refused to let these people go, I hope that we will be given more humanitarian access to the zone," he said. "We believe that there are critical levels of hunger, and large numbers of people needing medical treatment."

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that some 160,000 people displaced by the fighting have moved into government controlled areas, most of them have received accommodations in sites in Vavuniya, Jaffna and Trincomalee.

UNHCR has called on the government to release relief assistance on an emergency basis and allow use of public buildings and land to accommodate displaced civilians, reported dpa.