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UN envoy visits Sri Lanka over war refugees

[AFP, Thursday, 24 September 2009 08:48 No Comment]

ALeqM5g2UvDG2-0BKd_EEUuMalwsidNFXw The United Nations’ top envoy for refugees met with Sri Lankan authorities Thursday to discuss the plight of over 250,000 war-displaced civilians held in camps in the north, officials said.

Walter Kalin, the UN secretary general’s envoy for refugee rights, arrived late Wednesday and will also tour the camps in the island’s north before leaving on Sunday, UN and local officials said.

"Mr. Kalin will be in Colombo today for talks with various government officials to appraise himself with the developments on the IDPs (Internally Displaced People)," a spokesman for the human rights ministry said.

Kalin’s visit comes a week after the UN’s political chief, Lynn Pascoe, expressed concern over the prolonged detention of the civilians and urged Sri Lanka to investigate rights abuses during the final stages of the civil war.

UN sources here said Kalin would press for improved conditions for the Tamil civilians held in tightly guarded camps which the government insists are "welfare villages".

The government says the civilians cannot be allowed freedom of movement until the authorities screen them for remaining Tamil rebels.

Pascoe last week said the Sri Lankan government was not making sufficient progress in implementing a deal between Colombo and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in May to resettle the refugees within six months.

The agreement was for the speedy resettlement of the civilians who were displaced during the height of the fighting between troops and Tamil Tiger rebels earlier this year.

[Full Coverage]

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