Sri Lanka to restrict aid until rebels screened out

May 24, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lanka said Sunday it would not allow aid workers complete access to civilians who remain held in camps after the defeat of the Tamil Tigers until rebels hiding among the refugees had been weeded out. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, on a visit to one camp housing 200,000 Tamils, had called for his staff to be given “unhindered access” to those displaced in the decades-long war that ended a week ago.

Ban, who toured the Menik Farm facility on Saturday, described the conditions as overcrowded and the detained civilians as “badly in need of food, water and sanitation.”

The government responded to his appeal for aid agencies to be permitted to help by saying that “as conditions improved, especially with regard to security, there would be no objections to such assistance.”

President Mahinda Rajapakse’s statement warned of “the likely presence of Tamil Tiger infiltrators among the large numbers who had come to the government areas.”

The government describes the camps as “welfare villages” and says it wants to resettle all displaced civilians as soon as possible, but Tamil activists say they are “concentration camps” with inmates penned in behind barbed wire.

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