Sri Lankan refugee camps emptying: UNHCR

Chandi Dharmaratne

GENEVA, April 27, 2010 (AFP) – More than 200,000 of some 280,000 mainly Tamil people displaced after the civil war in northern Sri Lanka have left their camps since last August, the UN refugee agency said Tuesday. A spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said the government allowed returns to resume last week following a three week pause due to the country’s elections, leading to the departure of 7,000 internally displaced people since then.

“207,000 IDPs have left the camps in the north and east of the country since the organised return process began in August last year,” the spokesman, Andrej Mahecic, told journalists.

“They have either returned to their homes or are staying with friends and relatives in Vavuniyam, Mannar, Jaffna and other districts.”

About 25,000 families — some 82,000 people — are left in camps or still with host families in the Meniak Farm area, largely because they had nowhere to go after their homes were destroyed in the war, Mahecic added.

An estimated 288,000 people were displaced during the final stages of the conflict last year after government forces defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels in bitter fighting and ended a 37-year-old civil war.