The United Nations refugee agency expressed concern today over the safety of thousands of families fleeing escalating violence in northern Sri Lanka between Government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
“We call on both parties to take immediate steps to ensure the protection of those affected; to allow freedom of movement for those seeking safety from the ongoing operations; and to ensure that the internally displaced are neither targeted nor located near military targets,” Ron Redmond, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva.
He warned that supplies of food, shelter, water and sanitation equipment and fuel to transport civilians are running “dangerously low.” Stringent restrictions on the movement of goods into the region are preventing aid workers from replenishing the stocks.
“UNHCR calls upon the authorities to allow unhindered passage for essential supplies as soon as possible,” Mr. Redmond stated.
Some 12,000 families are reported to have escaped the conflict in July alone, with people trying to keep ahead of the fighting’s moving frontlines to stay out of the crossfire. The UN’s access to most of the 10,000 internally displaced families in Karachchi has been cut off due to humanitarian workers’ security concerns.
“UNHCR is urging all parties to allow humanitarian access to the affected population so they can be provided with much-needed assistance in a timely manner and in line with international humanitarian law and practices,” said Mr. Redmond.
Most of the displaced families are staying out in the open, and some areas can no longer accommodate those forced to flee due to military operations are closing in on them. UNHCR, in concert with local authorities and other agencies, are trying to locate additional sites to shelter the internally displaced persons (IDPs).