Friday 13 February 2009 | Sri Lanka feed | All feeds


Sri Lanka plans to hold displaced Tamils in 'concentration camps'

The Sri Lankan government has been denounced over plans to forcibly detain thousands of Tamil civilians fleeing the country's civil war in "concentration camps".

Sri Lanka plans to hold displaced Tamils in 'concentration camps'
Sri Lanka plans to hold displaced Tamils in 'concentration camps' Photo: AP

Officials have confirmed they will establish several "welfare villages" to house the estimated 200,000 Tamils displaced from their homes by the Sri Lankan army's "final offensive" against the LTTE's stronghold on the north of the Island. Senior officials have however confirmed that those housed in the villages will have no choice on whether to stay in the camps.

The villages, which will be based in Vavuniya and Mannar districts and will include banks and parks, will be compulsory holding centres for all civilians fleeing the fighting. They will be screened for terrorist connections and then held under armed guard, with only those with relatives inside the camp allowed to come and go. Single youngsters will be confined to the camps.

It remains unclear how long displaced Tamils will be forced to remain in the camps. Officials had originally planned to detain civilians there for three years but, following an outcry from humanitarian groups, said they hoped to resettle 80 per cent within a year.

Aid groups, senior opposition leaders and Britain's Department for International Development have all denounced the plan, which was on Friday compared to Hitler's demonisation of the Jews in the 1930s.

Former Foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera, a former close aide to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, said it was part of a police to paint all Tamils, even moderate opponents of the Tamil Tigers, as potential terrorists and to silence all Tamil voices.

"It is amazing and terrible. A few months ago the government started registering all Tamils in Colombo on the grounds that they could be a security threat, but this could be exploited for other purposes like the Nazis in the 1930s. They're basically going to label the whole civilian Tamil population as potential terrorists, and as a result we are becoming a recruitment machine for the LTTE. Instead of winning hearts and minds of the Tamil people, we're pushing even the moderates into the arms of the LTTE by taking these horrendous steps," he told The Daily Telegraph.

A spokesman for Britain's Department for International Development said:"We are aware of the Government of Sri Lanka's plans for civilians displaced by the conflict in the Vanni. We do not believe current plans represent a sufficient solution by international humanitarian standards. Prolonging the displacement of this very vulnerable group of people is not in anyone's interests.

"There is no UK Government money going into the camps. The UK is supporting international agencies on the ground like the Red Cross, who are in constant touch with the Government of Sri Lanka to find an acceptable solution for those affected. It is important to note that the Government of Sri Lanka has consistently followed a speedy resettlement policy and the experience in the East has been positive in this regard."



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