Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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UNHCR Assessing Needs of Thousands of Newly Displaced in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka and India

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, April 27 (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency on Thursday expressed serious concern over the recent displacement of thousands of people in the Trincomalee district of northern Sri Lanka.

Military air strikes in the district on Monday and Tuesday and hostilities around the Muttur area appear to have ceased. But UNHCR estimates between 7,000 and 8,000 people fled a cluster of villages near the area of military operations and air strikes in the Sampoor area. On April 21, 8,500 people were displaced as a result of claymore mine attacks in Muttur, southeast of Trincomalee town.

Earlier, on April 10, an estimated 3,000 other residents were displaced following a market place bombing in Trincomalee town that killed 16 people and sparked an upsurge in inter-ethnic violence that included several claymore mine attacks and the burning and looting of houses. The displaced sought temporary shelter in schools, churches and other public buildings.

With the easing of fighting between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the re-opening of access roads, UNHCR expects that many of the displaced will begin to return to their homes. Some are already returning to their properties during daylight hours, but spending nights in displacement locations.

"The UN agencies and our NGO partners are seriously concerned about the recent displacement," said Amin Awad, UNHCR's representative in Sri Lanka. "As the situation calms, we are working to determine the immediate needs of the displaced and to work with our partners to provide a coordinated humanitarian response."

Awad said a UN joint assessment mission was able to travel to the Trincomalee district on Thursday after the government opened the access road, and another was expected on Friday.

Meanwhile, the total number of Sri Lankan refugees arriving in Tamil Nadu, southern India, since 12 January stands at 596. The arrivals began as a consequence of increased violence in December and early 2006. After a break of about 10 days, 16 Sri Lankan refugees have arrived since April 22.


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