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Sri Lanka’s camp inmates set free: official

[AFP, Tuesday, 1 December 2009 07:47 No Comment]

Thousands of Sri Lankan civilians who have been held in state-run camps since the end of the country’s separatist conflict in May were released on Tuesday, an official said.

About 128,000 men, women and children displaced during the final stages of the conflict were granted freedom to leave heavily guarded military camps in Vavuniya district, 260 kilometres (160 miles) north of Colombo.

"Today more than 1,000 families consisting of about 6,000 persons have already exited the camps," N. Thirugnanasampanther, a senior civil servant in Vavuniya, told AFP Tuesday.

"Transport out of the camps is a problem but people seem to be very happy to leave."

He said that the detainees were unlikely to be able to return to their homes immediately, and would probably remain based in the camps for now.

The camps, which have been condemned by the United Nations and rights groups, held 280,000 people at their height in May, mostly from the island’s Tamil ethnic group on whose behalf the Tiger separatists waged a 37-year war.

The military wiped out the leadership of the Tigers in an offensive, but the displaced were detained because the government said it needed to screen them for rebels and clear landmines from their villages.

Officials say they will not receive state assistance for their journeys.

[Full Coverage]

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