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article imageHas situation improved for 380,000 Tamil IDPs? Special

By Andrew Moran     Apr 16, 2010 in World
Colombo - It has been nearly one year since the civil war in Sri Lanka came to an end. It has been more than four months since the Sri Lankan President "released" IDPs from the camps. Two elections have taken place this year. Has anything changed for the Tamils?
Digital Journal provided in-depth coverage of the crisis that is still occurring in Sri Lanka where hundreds of thousands of Tamils were forced into internment camps by the Mahinda Rajapaksa government that were described as even worse than the camps during World War Two.
At the end of 2009, the Sri Lankan President, under duress from the international community, announced that he would free the Tamils from the barbed-wire camps but many still remain inside the internal displacement camps.
Those who were released returned to their homes and villages only to see that their homes and villages were absolutely destroyed, while thousands were not able to find work and even forced into rehabilitation centers to adapt to the Sinhalese culture.
“Most of the houses have been either completely destroyed or severely damaged. In the Vanni, the pace of return has been very fast. More than half of the people who were displaced have come back. But there are still areas which have not been cleared of mines,” said Senior Policy Officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Vicky Tennant.
Several hundred Tamils protest in Toronto
As the growing public becomes aware of the conditions of the Tamil displacement camps in Sri Lanka, more are protesting and demanding the international community take proper action.
Andrew Moran
A March report from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) shows that 93,000 IDPs still remain inside closed camps with limited freedom of movement since Dec. 1, while those who wish to leave the camps must be given a pass and are allowed to be out of the facilities for only two weeks.
Around 92,000 returned to their places of origin and another 93,000 were staying with host families.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, approximately 10,000 and 15,000 Tamils are being held in undisclosed regions where international media and non-government organizations (NGOs) are denied access to the areas. There have been numerous accusations that those prisoners have been the victims of torture and rape.
Senthan Nada, a Toronto spokesperson for the Coalition to Stop the War in Sri Lanka (CTSWSL), told Digital Journal that a France 24 news reporter had rare access to some areas where there are thousands of Tamil IDPs. Many of the homes have either become occupied by Sinhalese forces or have been declared by the Sri Lankan army as high security zones.
“According to this report, most of the homes belonging to the IDPs in the North have been illegally occupied by the members of armed forces and their families. While forcefully displaced Tamils are languishing in tents and under the trees, the Sri Lankan government is in the process of acquiring their lands to colonize it with majority Sinhalese,” said Nada.
The Toronto spokesperson further added that many IDPs have been “dumped” outside of their traditional villages without any forms of assistance or any housing.
In May, Amnesty International will be holding an event urging the United Nations to establish an international independent investigation panel to gather information from relevant sources in order to bring justice to those who have been directly affected by the human rights abuses committed in Sri Lanka.
In Canada, according to the CTSWSL spoksperson, the Tamil community has urged the federal government to use its international influence to suspend Sri Lanka’s membership in the Commonwealth. The CTSWSL hopes this measure will force the government of Sri Lanka to abide and comply to the international norms of human rights.
Canadian Members of Parliament, including Jack Layton, Olivia Chow and Bob Rae, called upon Prime Minister Stephen Harper in November to “open the doors of Canada” to allow IDPs into the country. As many as 76 Tamils were arrested in handcuffs and shackled in leg chains in Vancouver when they attempted to seek asylum in Canada.
Interim Liberal Party of Canada Leader Bob Rae speaking with the media
Interim Liberal Party of Canada Leader Bob Rae speaking with the media
In December, the Canadian Tamil community held a referendum supporting a sovereign Tamil state within Sri Lanka. An overwhelming 99.8 per cent of voters were in favor of a separate state.
At the present time, there are about 380,000 IDPs in Sri Lanka, according to the latest figure from the IDMC, in a nation that has a population of more than 21.1 million.
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