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More Than 200,000 Sri Lankans Now Displaced - UN

More Than 200,000 Sri Lankans Now Displaced By Fighting, Says UN Refugee Agency

After gaining greater access to areas of strife-torn Sri Lanka that had been cut off by recent fighting between Government forces and the separatist Tamil Tigers, the United Nations refugee agency says the number of people dislodged from their homes since April has surged to 204,620.

Even though humanitarian agencies still cannot reach all the locations where displaced people are residing, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told reporters in Geneva today that relief workers can now move into the town of Muttur, which has been at the centre of military operations in Trincomalee District. A joint UN mission to the area is gauging security and the immediate needs of local residents to ensure that the appropriate aid reaches them in the coming days.

Ms. Pagonis said conditions in Kanthale, which hosts most of the individuals who fled the fighting in Muttur, have improved, with Colombo playing an active role in relief efforts. Local authorities have identified new sites where displaced communities can be housed in emergency shelters, freeing up the schools and other public buildings where they have been sheltered.

Earlier this month, UNHCR estimated that more than 162,200 people had fled their homes but remained within Sri Lanka, while 6,672 had crossed the Palk Strait to become refugees in India’s Tamil Nadu state. UNHCR now puts the number of Sri Lankan refugees that have arrived in India since the start of this year at 8,742.

In the north, the recent relaxing of daytime curfews has given the residents of Jaffna town five hours to leave their homes and buy food and other essential items. However, many displaced persons trapped on the islands off Jaffna peninsula need help, and UNHCR is trying to gain access to these areas.


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