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No relief for Tamil refugees in sight

Discussions between Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa and a senior UN official on the plight of the 2.8 lakh Tamil refugees languishing in camps did not throw up any sign that their fate would improve soon, reports Sutirtho Patranobis.

world Updated: Sep 19, 2009 00:03 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Discussions between Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa and a senior UN official on the plight of the 2.8 lakh Tamil refugees languishing in camps did not throw up any sign that their fate would improve soon.

Rajapaksa told B Lynn Pasco, under-secretary-general for political affairs, that rehabilitation of the thousands of men, women and children depended on how fast the vast areas in north and north-eastern Sri Lanka could be de-mined.

Rajapaksa’s assurance was that Sri Lanka will not take 16 years, like Croatia did, to complete de-mining. “We do not intend taking so much time. I have laid down an initial target of 180 days to resettle at least 70% of the internally displaced persons (IDPs),’’ a statement from the President’s office said.

Pascoe met Rajapaksa after visiting the Vavuniya camps to get a first hand view ongoing de-mining, resettlement of IDPs and the IDP relief villages of Menik Farm. On Thursday night, he told reporters: "We have been concerned about the pace of progress since the secretary-general was out there," Pascoe said. "We're particularly concerned about the [refugees] in the camps, and getting them out, getting them home," he added

On Friday, Pascoe handed a letter from UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to Rajapaksa outlining the concerns of the international community on the developments regarding IDPs.