US House of representatives pressures Sri Lanka on refugee camps

WASHINGTON, November 4, 2009 (AFP) – The US House of Representatives urged Sri Lanka’s government Wednesday to guarantee the safety and quick release of some 300,000 Tamils and other war-displaced people currently held in camps. By an overwhelming 421-1 vote, lawmakers approved a non-binding resolution that calls on the authorities in Colombo to help the populations of widely condemned, tightly guarded camps return to their homes.

The measure urges Sri Lanka’s government to turn over the operation of the camps to civilians, and allow day-to-day access to the camps for the Red Cross, non-governmental groups, and others who care for internally displaced people.

It also calls on the government to allow an independent assessment of charges of large numbers of deaths, rampant disease, poor sanitation and poor health care in the camps and a plan to remedy the issues.

The proposal also asks the government to establish “reasonable conditions” to allow non-Sri-Lanka agencies access to the inhabitants and to ensure reconstruction of areas devastated by the country’s internal strife.

And it urges the Tamil people “to continue to be patient while the government reestablishes normalcy” and calls on the government to make h