Britain demands freedom for Sri Lanka war victims

Britain on Tuesday expressed disappointment with Sri Lanka’s handling of war-displaced civilians and demanded that they be given the freedom to leave state-run camps.

“Freedom of movement is critical if a humanitarian crisis is to be averted,” visiting British Development Minister Mike Foster said after touring the camps, where more than 250 000 civilians are being detained.

Foster, who began a two-day visit on Tuesday, also voiced concern over the conditions in the camps.

Britain was helping Sri Lanka with the resettlement as well as de-mining, he said adding, however, that he was “disappointed” with Sri Lanka’s progress in allowing civilians to return to their homes in former war-zones.

Foster said £4,8-million in aid is currently in the pipeline to assist Sri Lanka in its resettlement work, but added that it could not use the money just to transfer people from one camp to another.

“Mike Foster made clear that Britain’s funding could not support people simply being transferred from existing ‘closed’ camps—which detain civilians for long periods of time—to new ‘closed’ camps,” the British High Commission (Embassy) said in a statement. “Freedom of movement has to be allowed now.”

In May Sri Lanka ended decades of ethnic conflict after killing the top Tamil rebel leadership. Civilians who managed to escape the fighting have been held in internment camps which the government calls “welfare villages”.

The government insists that they cannot be set free until they are screened for possible links with the defeated Tamil Tigers.—AFP

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