UNITED NATIONS (PTI): Over 200,000 displaced Tamil civilians have left refugee camps in the North and East Sri Lanka since the resettlement process began in August last year following the defeat of the LTTE in the three-decades-long ethnic conflict, the UN refugee agency said on Tuesday.

Some 7,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) have returned to the districts of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu following the resumption of government-led return movements in northern Sri Lanka after a three-week temporary pause due to parliamentary elections and holidays.

“Some 207,000 IDPs have left camps in the North and East of the country since the organised return process began in August last year.

They have either returned to their homes or were staying with friends and relatives in Vavuniya, Mannar, Jaffna and other districts,” according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

“People are returning to areas which suffered major destruction,” said UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic.

“To assist them to rebuild their lives, we are providing each returning family with a shelter cash grant of RS. 25,000 (USD 220). More than 40,000 families had already received the cash grant by March, he added.

At the height of the conflict between the Lanka government and the Tamil Tigers, about 280,000 people had been displaced.

They were staying in more than 40 camps, mainly in the Menik Farm site in the Vavuniya region but also in Jaffna, Mannar and Trincomalee districts.

The conditions in the refugee camps led to strong international criticism for human rights violations on the part of Sri Lanka government.

“The camps, which used to be overcrowded, are now hosting less than one third of their initial population,” Mahecic said, adding “returns and the subsequent decongestion eased the pressure on the health, food and water services.”

Meanwhile, the international community is calling for investigations into alleged human rights violations on part of the Sri Lankan army.

In August 2009, footage surfaced that showed a Sri Lankan soldier shooting at point blank range a Tamil rebel who is bound and blindfolded -reinforcing allegations about summarily executions on part of the Sri Lankan army.

Sri Lanka has rejected the UN call for independent investigations but UN Chief Ban Ki-moon has noted that he would continue to press Colombo for accountability on the matter.

Source: Daily Mirror – 29.04.2010

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