Banking Conduit

June 04, 2009 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s state-run Bank of Ceylon is providing banking services for refugees in several camps in the north of the island to get financial help from their relatives, a top official said. Nearly 300,000 people held as a human shield by the Tamil Tigers before they were defeated last month are now held in tightly guarded camps while authorities are screening them for members of the separatist group.

“Most of these people have someone abroad and now we have found that a lot of foreign remittances are coming in,” Bank of Ceylon chairman Gamini Wickramasinghe said.

“Bank of Ceylon accounts for half of the foreign remittances wired to Sri Lanka.”

In 2008 Sri Lanka received nearly three billion dollars mainly from expatriate workers in the Middle East and Italy.

But many members of the Tamil community who have left the country for permanent residence in Europe and North America also send money to relatives at home.

However in the first quarter of 2009, remittances were down 1.7 percent to 773.6 million US dollars. In the first quarter of 2008 remittances grew 23.5 percent.

Wickramasinghe said bank staff working in the camps provide communication facilities for r