Colombo, May 21 (ANI): Thousands of Tamil civilians who had been forced from their homes by the conflict in Sri Lanka could be interned in refugee camps for up to two years before they are permitted to return, authorities in Colombo have said.
The revelation comes as the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) said that it has been forced to suspend its aid supply to the refugees after it was refused access to the camps, reports The Independent.
"Yes, we have concerns. Yes, we are asking for access," the paper quoted Paul Castella, the head of the ICRC delegation in Sri Lanka, as saying.
A senior government official, Lakshman Hulugala, said more than 230,000 civilians were being held in camps, a figure the UN believes could rise.
He said screening so many people to identify rebels and resettling the northern area of the country would be a lengthy process.
Earlier this year when the Sri Lankan authorities revealed plans for "welfare villages" that would hold the refugees for three years, there was an immediate outcry from aid groups.
The government backtracked and vowed that 80 per cent would be resettled within 12 months. The new revelation will trigger fresh concern.
The government has begun screening the tens of thousands of Tamils that have poured from the war zone. Dozens have identified themselves as LTTE fighters and have been taken to rehabilitation camps. It is understood "hard core" suspects, accused of the most serious crimes, are being held in a detention camp near Boosse. (ANI)