The increasingly desperate plight of thousands of civilians has led the UN to demand full access to Sri Lanka’s refugee camps.
More than 300,000 people were forced to flee their homes because of the war against the Tamil Tigers. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for equal rights for the Tamil minority and is expected to visit at least one camp for himself. Human rights groups say the conditions in which people are being held are unacceptable. Chief of Staff of the UN Secretary-General Vijay Nambiar said: “the focus will be on the resettlement and the rehabilitation of the internally-displaced persons, the conditions of the tents, the need to have people moved from the camps as quickly as possible, the questions of de-mining etc.” The visit by Ban comes as Sri Lanka released for the first time the number of soldiers killed in the final phase of the 25 year conflict. However, at just over 6,000, those figures were dwarfed by UN estimates according to which at least 80,000 civilians died in the civil war.