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The biggest prison camp in the world

8th September 2009
Wellington Tamil Society Media Release

The biggest prison camp in the world

At 12:15pm on 9th September Wellington Tamil Society will be marching from Te Aro Park (on Manners St) to Parliament steps to highlight the need to open up the biggest prison camp in the world, where hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians are forcibly held in northern Sri Lanka. Dr Jackie Blue (National), Grant Robertson (Labour) and Keith Locke (Green) will meet with Wellington Tamil Society on Parliament steps to hear concerns and give their views.

In an op-ed piece in the New York Times, Robert Templer, the Asia program director of the International Crisis Group, said “An estimated 300,000 Tamil civilians remain essentially prisoners in internment camps run by a Sinhalese-dominated government.” According to Amnesty International 300,000 people displaced by the fighting in Sri Lanka are held by the government in de facto detention camps. They cannot leave the camps, where conditions are "appalling" according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

Call on the Sri Lankan government to immediately allow the displaced civilians freedom of movement: those who wish to leave the camps should be free to do so.

Urge them to place the camps under civilian, not military, management and to allow aid agencies, journalists and human rights observers full, unhindered access to the camps to carry out their functions and prevent possible abuses.

Human Rights Watch has called on the Sri Lankan government to let people leave and move in with friends and family, saying it would instantly ease overcrowding and deteriorating conditions made worse by the start of the rainy season.

"The government has detained people in these camps and is threatening their health and even their lives by keeping them there during the rainy season floods," said Brad Adams, the group's Asia director. "This is illegal, dangerous, and inhumane." There is an urgent need to highlight the detention of the civilians, as the Sri Lankan government is trying to suppress their plight. As reported in the UK Guardian: a senior official at the United Nations humanitarian agency, Unicef, has been given two weeks to leave Sri Lanka after expressing concerns about the plight of Tamils.

ENDS

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