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Sri Lanka: increase in numbers of displaced

Briefing notes

Sri Lanka: increase in numbers of displaced

25 August 2006

Over the last few days, as our staff has gained greater access to areas of the country previously cut off by fighting, we have dramatically revised the number of people who have had to flee their homes. The number of people displaced since April this year now stands at 204,602.

While humanitarian agencies are still not able to reach all of the sites where displaced families are sheltering, UNHCR is pleased that agencies are now able to move into Muttur town, an area that has been at the centre of military operations in Trincomalee District. A joint UN mission is assessing security and immediate needs in Muttur, to make sure we provide the right sort of aid over the coming days.

Conditions in Kanthale, which hosts most of the families who fled from Muttur, are now improving with the government active in coordinating relief. Local authorities have identified new sites where displaced communities can be housed in emergency shelters, freeing up the schools and other public buildings where they have been sheltering.

In the north, the people of Jaffna town have been enjoying improved freedom of movement following a recent relaxation in daytime curfews, which allows residents five hours to buy essential food and other items. However, significant numbers of displaced persons are still trapped on the islands off Jaffna peninsula, awaiting much-needed assistance. UNHCR is working hard to gain access to these areas as soon as possible.

In addition to the people displaced within Sri Lanka, another 8,742 Sri Lankan refugees have arrived in India since the start of the year. After five people drowned on 17 August when their boat capsized in strong winds, we repeat our deep concern for those fleeing across the Palk Straits on often unseaworthy and overcrowded vessels.