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No relief for Tamil refugees in sight

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.