IDP Camps in terrible conditions
Sri Lankan government claimed that most to the detainees would be resettled within six months. However, senior military officials told that 80% of the people will be there in a year time. Further, permanent structures are being build at the Manik Farm, the biggest camp with over 225,000 internally displaced people.
In order to brush off criticism of the denial of democratic rights and terrible conditions in the camps, the government falsely claimed that most detainees would be resettled within six months. However, senior military officials have told Mark Cutts, a UN senior coordinator at Manik Farm, that they expect 80 percent of the people to be still detained in a year’s time.
All the detainees are suspected supporters of the LTTE for the government. The government says no one can be released until screened for the tigers. 20-30 people are taken away from the camps everyday and, what is happening to them is unknown. No record is kept of such removals, violating international and Sri Lankan laws.
The government is treating all the detainees as suspected supporters of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), saying that no-one can be released until the camps have been screened to identify those with LTTE connections. Every day 20 to 30 young people are taken away and their whereabouts are unknown, a human rights organisation, INFORM, reported this week. Interviewed by the BBC Sinhala Service, a spokesperson for the organisation said people wearing hoods were brought into the camps and they indicated by signs whether a detainee had LTTE connections or not.
No register is being kept of such removals, in violation of Sri Lankan and international law, and the media has been excluded from the camps to prevent any reporting of the conditions in the camps or the fate of the nearly 9,000 youth that the government has admitted taking away to separate detention facilities. Their parents do not know what has happened to them.
A eye-witness revealed that more than a thousand shells were fired within an hour at the last days of battle. The eye-witness claimed to have seen about 1,400 killed in the hospital alone.
“The military fired more than a thousand shells an hour. The shells fell on people because there was a smaller chance of falling on the land--people were so crowded into a tiny area. About 1,400 people killed on the day when I was injured. I saw this in the hospital. I do not know how many died on the spot.
An eye-witness described the condition at the camps as follows:
“We are like prisoners here. Why don’t they allow us to go out? The toilets are overflowing. There is a lack of water to use toilets and for other needs. There are some tube wells for drinking water. For that we have to wait in a long queue. We have to bathe in a river running behind the camp. However if we bathe in that river continuously, some skin diseases will spread among us. A doctor visits the camp only once a week. Sometimes essential medicines are not available. We have to obtain a token two days in advance to consult the doctor for any severe illness
The foreign representatives do not know the real situation.The authorities clean things up, and only show better image of the camps to the foreign representatives, when allowed.
“We are living with fear. We do not know what will happen at anytime. The foreign representatives who visit here do not know the real situation. We are not allowed to speak with them. When the UN secretary general [Ban Ki-moon] visited, the authorities took half the detainees out of Kadirgamar camp and cleaned it up. They showed him each family with a tent. They took him only to that camp.”
Another person stated the treatment in the camp made him think that its better to have died of starvation than coming to the camp.
the treatment that the young and middle-aged people got and the words used against us made me think that I should have died starving rather than come here.
Parents with children could not sleep due to the fear that their children would be taken away, and eye-witness stated there were incidents that the children were taken away.
“Since we came here many of the parents with children have never slept at night for fear that their children would be taken away. There were numbers of such incidents. We had no lights, so nobody knew what was going on.”
The question remaining is how many more days do they have to suffer this.
How many days do we have to suffer this camp life? There is no water here. Smallpox and mumps are spreading.”