Action Alert Archive
Send Refugees Home Before Flooding Begins
August 27, 2009
Despite the end of Sri Lanka’s long and violent civil war, many Tamil civilians remain wrongfully detained in government internment camps. Nearly 300,000 civilians are forced to live in overcrowded, unsanitary, and unsafe conditions, worsened greatly by the onset of Sri Lanka’s rainy season. The UK Times reported that upwards of 1,400 people are dying each week in one camp alone, yet the Sri Lankan government continues to violate international law by indiscriminately confining almost all Tamil civilians displaced by war-time fighting.
Human Rights Watch recently reported on the disastrous impact of the heavy rains and flooding in the internment camps, detailing the appalling conditions in which the internally displaced people are forced to live. Health officials have already recorded thousands of cases of diarrhea, hepatitis, dysentery, and chickenpox, and the lack of sanitation only heightens the risk of further outbreaks. Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW, reported that “the government [of Sri Lanka] has detained people in these camps and is threatening their health and even their lives by keeping them there during the rainy season floods.” Sadly, the government is still ignoring these inhumane conditions and refusing to allow Tamil IDPs to relocate with friends and family members, and instead continues to detain them, allegedly to screen for LTTE combatants.
In spite of international pressure, the Sri Lankan government continues to maintain inhumane conditions in the internment camps while simultaneously restricting access for agencies who can alleviate the suffering. “Human rights violations of all types have the potential to be ignored by the authorities when access to the camps and their inhabitants is restricted,” said Yolanda Foster, Amnesty International's Sri Lanka expert. If international organizations such as the United Nations do not exert maximum effort to send these IDPs home, the current situation will escalate, breeding further human rights violations, frustration, and unrest in the camps.
On May 21, the Sri Lankan government claimed that the displaced Tamils will be resettled in six months; however, it has been three months since this statement and AFP has reported that only 1,100 refugees have been allowed to leave the camps. It is clear that the government's blatant disregard for Tamil lives will continue unless the international community commits itself to forcing the Sri Lankan government to return send the wrongfully detained civilians home. I urge you to pressure the UN to issue and enforce economic and diplomatic sanctions against Sri Lanka until the government relocates all civilians to their rightful homes. As the rainy season approaches, the situation in the internment camps will further deteriorate. We cannot afford to rely on the Sri Lankan government's empty promise of resettling all IDPs by November. It is imperative that the UN take action now to ensure the dignity and safe return of these innocent Tamil refugees.
The mission of People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL) is to end the systemic human rights abuses against the Tamil population in Sri Lanka, and promote equality, rights and justice on the island. PEARL is 501(c)3 non-profit organization led by human rights activists concerned about the situation in Sri Lanka.