'Sri Lankan Govt. building permanent camps for Tamil refugees'

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Colombo, July 3 (ANI): Despite promising to resettle 80 percent of Tamil refugees by the end of this year, the Sri Lankan Government has reportedly started building permanent camps for most of the 300,000 refugees, who are being held there since Tamil Tigers' defeat in May.

The Times quoted aid workers, as saying that permanent buildings are being erected at the Manik Farm site where the UN says that 230,000 of the refugees are kept.

The aid workers were able to do humanitarian work in four of six zones at Manik Farm but were barred from two others, including the mysteriously named Zone Zero.

"We're not allowed to work in these areas. But you can see from the outside proper brick-walled buildings going up," said Rajinda Jayasinghe, the head of Relief International in Sri Lanka.

The Government originally proposed holding the Tamil refugees in "welfare villages" for up to three years to check that they were not Tigers, and to clear their villages of mines.

Aid workers said that the new structures violated UN guidelines on temporary refugee shelters, and suggested that the Government meant to hold refugees for much longer.

Aid groups' concerns over the buildings grew when the Government proposed giving people in each tent two bags of cement to build their own floors, a leaked document obtained by The Times shows.

"The use of concrete flooring is inconsistent with temporary structures and is one of the recognised criteria of a semi-permanent structure," the document said.

A spokesman for the Sri Lankan High Commission in London, however, denied that the Government was building permanent structures in the camps.

"Concrete is laid only for the safety and to maintain cleanliness. It should not be considered as an indication for permanency. People will be resettled as fast as possible. 180-day target is a huge challenge. However, the Government will accomplish it with the help of the UN and friendly foreign countries," he said. (ANI)

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