The United Nations has issued its strongest possible protest to the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for refusing to allow the world body’s national staff and dependents who were travelling with a UN aid convoy to return from Sri Lanka’s northern Vanni area.
“The staff are part of a UN convoy which traveled to the Vanni on Friday, 16 January, delivering urgent food and emergency supplies to displaced populations,” according to a statement issued by the Office of the UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator in Colombo.
Due to fighting between the LTTE and Government forces, the convoy has only been able to move safely today.
“The UN calls on the LTTE to meet their responsibilities and immediately permit all UN staff and dependents to freely move from this area.
“The LTTE’s denial of safe passage is a clear abrogation of their obligations under international humanitarian law,” the statement added.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that around 230,000 people have been displaced due to intensified fighting in the north of the country during the second half of 2008.
The convoy in question is the 11th to take supplies to those trapped in the midst of fighting in the Vanni. Since early October UN convoys have brought approximately 7,000 tons of vital food and relief supplies to displaced populations.