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Renewed Fighting In Sri Lanka Disrupts Return

Renewed Fighting In Sri Lanka Disrupts Return Of Displaced, UN Refugee Agency Says

A new flare-up of fighting in Sri Lanka has disrupted returns to Muttar Town, the scene of recent violence and military operations, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.

“We had seen some families returning to their own homes, at least in the daytime, but that movement has now come to a halt,” a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told a press briefing in Geneva.

The new shelling around Trincomalee comes as the number of civilians displaced within Sri Lanka since April reached nearly 214,000. “This may not reflect the full number,” the spokesman cautioned, “since we do not yet have access to all the areas hosting displaced persons.”

In addition, more than 11,000 Sri Lankan refugees have crossed into Southern India since the start of the year, after crossing the Palk Strait in boats that the agency said “are often overloaded and unseaworthy.”

On Wednesday, the UN launched an appeal for $37.5 million to help victims of violence in the country. As part of that, $5 million is being sought for UNHCR to enable the agency to meet the needs of people displaced within Sri Lanka.

Although 23 lorries carrying food for displaced civilians were granted access to Kilinochchi District on Tuesday, the spokesman said that “with so many mouths to feed, more supplies are urgently required” and called upon the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to allow critical humanitarian aid to reach those in need.

The spokesman also welcomed the easing of restrictions on freedom of movement in Batticaloa District. UN agencies and their partners are now permitted to enter the LTTE-controlled area, and UNHCR “expects further access to reach larger sectors of the displaced population,” the spokesman said.

Fighting between Government forces and the LTTE has intensified since April despite a ceasefire agreed in 2002 aimed at ending a conflict that has lasted for more than 20 years and claimed some 60,000 lives.


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