90,000 displaced in Sri Lanka conflict return home: UN

GENEVA, November 6, 2009 (AFP) – About a third of those displaced during the conflict between Sri Lanka government and the Tamil Tigers have returned home over the past three months, the UN refugee agency said Friday. “Some 90,000 internally displaced people have returned to their villages in Sri Lanka’s north and east over the past three months, under the ongoing return plan of the Sri Lankan government,” said Andrej Mahecic, spokesman for the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

These include 39,000 people who have headed home in the last two weeks “as part of the government’s efforts to accelerate the process,” he added.

In addition, 16,500 people, including the elderly, pregnant women and people with disabilities, have been released from camps and are now staying with host families, said Mahecic.

Some 274,000 people were displaced during the conflict and following the recent returns, 163,000 people still remain in camps where “conditions are deteriorating,” said Mahecic.

Since the state-run camps are tightly guarded and international observers and aid agencies have not been given free access, Colombo has come under international pressure to quickly allow the displaced t