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Displaced Tamils to leave Sri Lankan relief camp
colombo, Oct 22 (Agencies):
Published on 22 Oct. 2009 11:41 PM IST
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More than 40,000 Tamil refugees will be released imminently by the Sri Lankan government from the main camp for war isplaced people, officials say. This would be the largest single batch of people to leave Menik Farm since the Tamil Tigers were defeated in May. About 15,000 have so far been freed.Some 250,000 civilians are housed in military-run camps in Sri Lanka. The authorities have been criticised for the slow pace of resettlement and for conditions in the camps. Some of those due to be freed from Menik Farm are from areas previously controlled by the rebels in Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi. It is the first time that people from those areas are to be released. All those freed up to now were Tamils from areas that were not controlled by the rebels in the closing stages of the war. The BBC’s Anbarasan Ethirajan says that the government’s announcement comes at a time when it is under increasing international pressure to resettle the nearly 250,000 people displaced in the final stages of the conflict. Sri Lanka’s government earlier said it intended to release 80% of the refugees held in camps by the end of the year. Rehabilitation Minister Rishat Badurdheen told the BBC that about 12,000 people were being released on Thursday, with the remainder of the 40,000 to be freed as soon as possible. The government has previously defended itself from human rights groups, many of whom have criticised the slow pace of the releases. It argues that it needs to weed out rebels from the camps and ensure that areas in the north are de-mined before refugees return home. Aid agencies have repeatedly expressed concern over conditions in Menik Farm - near the town of Vavuniya - and have warned that flooding and poor sanitation will become worse when monsoon rains, which are due at any time, eventually arrive.

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