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US 'deeply concerned' over SL camps

The United States was "deeply concerned" that tens of thousands of displaced people were still locked inside camps two months after Sri Lanka's decades-long ethnic war had ended, a US envoy said on Monday.

world Updated: Jul 27, 2009 22:10 IST

The United States was "deeply concerned" that tens of thousands of displaced people were still locked inside camps two months after Sri Lanka's decades-long ethnic war had ended, a US envoy said on Monday.

Around 300,000 people displaced during the final stages of the war continue to live in temporary shelters run by the state in the island's north and have only limited access to sanitation, food, medicine and clean water.

Though living conditions in the camps were improving, much more needed to be done, the visiting US assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, Eric Schwartz, told reporters in Colombo.

"At the same time, the United States remains deeply concerned about a range of issues where further progress is essential. In particular, the vast majority of persons remain confined to camps," Schwartz said.

Sri Lankan troops crushed the Tamil Tiger rebels in mid-May, but the government says it needs to keep displaced people inside tightly guarded camps until suspected rebel fighters among them are weeded out.

International aid agencies also have limited access to the camps and Schwartz said the restrictions "remain burdensome."

He also announced an eight-million-dollar donation towards the Sri Lankan government's programme to resettle those displaced by the fighting.

Much of the funds will be channelled through United Nations organisations to put up shelters and provide livelihood support for fishermen and farmers.

In May, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that his government would send most of the displaced people back to their homes before the end of this year.