Sri Lankans displaced in rebel fighting return home
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, March 13 (UNHCR) - Most of the several thousand Sri Lankans who were forced to flee over the weekend have returned home in eastern Sri Lanka after factional fighting in the ranks of the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE) eased.
UNHCR joined an inter-agency effort led by the Sri Lankan government to provide emergency assistance to 3,303 Sri Lankans in 697 families who sought refuge in schools in Batticaloa and Trincomalee districts after fighting broke out on Friday.
Some of the uprooted Sri Lankans had to walk for 17 to 22 kilometres to reach the schools. But after fighting died down, they went back to their villages. The swift returns were also prompted by a belief that bad luck will befall those who are not in their homes on Sri Lankan New Year, celebrated today.
By this morning, those remaining in the two schools were on their way home.
Authorities in the Sri Lankan government, which was not involved in the clashes, told the UN refugee agency that the main LTTE group based in the north of the country had put down the uprising in its eastern region.
It was the first time that clashes were reported in Sri Lanka since peace talks under the auspices of Norway started two years ago between the LTTE and the Colombo government.
"We hope that the situation will further improve and the negotiations to end the civil conflict will continue," said UN refugee spokesman Ron Redmond.
The civil war in Sri Lanka has claimed more than 60,000 lives and uprooted millions more over the past two decades. UNHCR has been providing assistance to the displaced Sri Lankans.