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Plea for Sri Lanka Tamil refugees

By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Colombo

Tamil civilians in northern Sri Lanka, 23 May 2009
Many fear indefinite detention, despite the government's promises

A new group of eminent Tamil people in Sri Lanka has made a plea for those held in government camps to be given a timetable for their release.

The group said people were yearning to be released from their confinement.

The camps still house nearly 300,000 Tamils displaced in the final stages of the war which ended in May.

The Group of Concerned Tamils in Sri Lanka says Tamil voices are being stilled and members of the minority were nervous of speaking out.

In this, its third statement, the group says it is disturbed over persistent reports of poor living conditions and even political disappearances in the camps.

It said the refugees yearned to get away from the barbed wire enclosures where they are detained, adding that there must be steps to erase "their sense of being held captive".

The group urged that timetables be drawn up for ongoing screening of refugees for possible Tamil Tiger affiliation and for the de-mining of their home areas.

Then people could be given a release date which would ease camp congestion and remove "any fears of indefinite detention".

But the government's human rights secretary, Rajiva Wijesinha, told the BBC he believed many people were "quite relieved" to be in the camps and that on his recent visit to them people looked less miserable and less frail than before.

Mr Wijesinha said that people should have no fear that they might be held indefinitely and reiterated the government's promise that most will be allowed out by the end of the year.



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