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Few Tamil refugees leaving camps in Sri Lanka

[Express Buzz, Friday, 4 December 2009 14:42 No Comment]

Less than 20 per cent of the Tamil war refugees kept in camps in north Sri Lanka have availed of the freedom of movement granted by the government since Dec. 1, the Minister for Human Rights, Mahinda Samarasinghe, said here on Friday.

Samarsinghe told the media that over the past three days, only 22,443 of the 112,062 refugees resident in camps had availed of the facility. Of them,  9, 717 had come back, he added.

“This is a testimony to the satisfactory conditions prevailing in the camps. They are not as bad as alleged by a section of the local and international media,” he said.

The Minister further said that a section of the international media had “falsely and mischievously” spread the story that the refugees had to return within 15 days. He said that there was no time limit for being out. Nor was there any restriction on where the refugees could go, though, for obvious reasons, places in the former war zone which were yet to be cleared of mines were still no-go zones, he said.

The military spokesman, Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara, said about 70 per cent of the areas earmarked for resettlement has been cleared of mines and over 7,000 mines recovered.

The areas cleared of mines were along the A9 highway cutting across the Wanni from the south to the north; the A 32 highway cutting across the region from east to west; the Mannar Rice Bowl in the south west; and Pooneryn in the north west, Nanayakkara said.

Many places in the Mullaitivu and Kilionochchi districts were still not free of mines, and therefore, refugees sent there for resettlement were still in “transit camps,”  Samarasinghe added.

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