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Tamils start leaving Sri Lanka camp

[BBC, Thursday, 22 October 2009 12:23 No Comment]

vavuniya226ap More than 40,000 Tamil refugees will be released imminently by the Sri Lankan government from the main camp for war displaced people, officials say.

The release would be the largest single batch of people freed from Manik Farm camp since conflict ended in May.

Some of those due to be freed are from areas previously controlled by the rebels in Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi.

It is the first time that people from those areas will be released.

About 15,000 refugees have been freed up to now – but all of them were Tamils from areas that were not controlled by Tamil Tiger rebels.

Weeding out

The BBC’s Anbarasan Ethirajan says that the government’s announcement comes at a time when it is coming under increasing international pressure to resettle nearly 250,000 people displaced in the final stages of the conflict.

Sri Lanka’s government earlier said it intended to release 80% of the refugees held in camps by the end of the year.

Rehabilitation Minister Rishat Badurdheen told the BBC that around 12,000 people were being released on Thursday, with the remainder out of the 40,000 refugees to be freed as soon as possible.

The government has previously defended itself from human rights groups, many of whom have criticised the slow pace of the releases.

It argues that it needs to weed out rebels from the camps and ensure that areas in the north are de-mined before refugees return home.

[Full Coverage]

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