Sri Lanka: UN officials stress need to help civilians caught up in fighting

3 September 2008

United Nations officials in Sri Lanka have acknowledged the Government’s announcement that it will take extra steps to improve the freedom of movement of thousands of civilians affected by recent fierce fighting in the north of the country.

“Measures that comply with international obligations governing the protection of civilians during armed conflict provide vital options for civilians as they make individual choices about where to seek safety and succour,” the UN Country Team in Sri Lanka said in a statement issued today.

The statement was released amid ongoing concern about the humanitarian impact of the violence in the Vanni, a district in the north where Government forces have clashed with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The UN Country Team stressed it is still committed to helping the Government provide humanitarian assistance to civilians whether they remain in the Vanni or decide to leave.

“Measures must be taken to prevent displacing people from their homes and livelihoods. The UN has also raised with the LTTE its urgent concern that civilians be allowed maximum freedom of movement of all times.”

Last month the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) voiced alarm about the safety of tens of thousands of civilians because of the fighting and urged both sides to ensure the protection of those not involved in the conflict.

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Sri Lanka: UN agency concerned for over 10,000 families escaping violence

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).