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Tamil refugees don't want to go back

world Updated: Jun 17, 2007 17:37 IST
PK.Balachandran

Tamil refugees at a camp in Mylambaveli in Batticaloa district say that they do not want to go back to their villages in the Vavunativu, Karaveddi and Nellikade area because war has not ceased in those places.

But whether they are willing or not, the 161 families living in the camp are going to be put into buses and despatched to those places in West Batticaloa by the district officials and the Sri Lankan Security Forces from June 18 onwards.

"There is shelling in Karadiyanaru.We don't want to go there until peace is fully guaranteed," said Sulojini.

" We can hear the noise of shelling even at this distance. We had run away from the fighting and come here. We see no sense in going back when the fighting is still on there," added Veerasingham.

The refugees had heard that the LTTE had warned that civilians should not come back "for their own safety."

To the refugees it is clear that the LTTE is planning to attack. Any civilian presence in large numbers will interfere with its plans to take back the areas lost to the Sri Lankan forces in the last few months.

The Army and the Special Task Force (STF) have told the refugees that Vavunativu and other areas have been fully cleared of the LTTE and that, in any case, army posts will be there to protect the returnees.

But the refugees do not consider this a safety measure at all. The LTTE, they fear, will definitely attack if it sees the army there!

"May be the army wants to use us as a human shield," said someone in the crowd, cynically.

Asked what if the people refused to board the buses, a refugee said: "The STF would force us to get in. It has made it clear to us that we have no option but to go. And the district officials have told us that those who don't go, won't get their rations."

The refugees live on the weekly rations provided by the government.

The Mylambaveli refugee camp is a neatly laid out facility with good structures. Apart from UNHCR, the Anglican church and NGOs like ZOA and World Vision render a lot of services, which the refugees will miss in their battered home villages.

"Those who went back to see told us that all our houses had been looted. Household goods, farming equipment, everything, had been looted. We have nothing at all to go back to," said the middle aged Jebamalai, looking helpless.