Tamil death toll at Lankan refugee camp 'is 1,400 a week'

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Mumbai, July 10 (ANI): About 1,400 Tamil refugees are dying every week at the giant Manik Farm internment camp in Sri Lanka, senior international aid sources have told The Times.

The death toll will add to concerns that the Sri Lankan Government has failed to halt a humanitarian catastrophe after announcing victory over the Tamil Tiger terrorist organisation in May.

Mangala Samaraweera, the former Foreign Minister and now an opposition MP, was quoted by the paper, as saying: "There are allegations that the Government is attempting to change the ethnic balance of the area. Influential people close to the Government have argued for such a solution."

News of the death rate came as the International Committee of the Red Cross revealed that it had been asked to scale down its operations by the Sri Lankan authorities, which insist that they have the situation under control.

Mahinda Samarasinghe, the Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights, was quoted, as saying: "The challenges now are different. Manning entry and exit points and handling dead bodies, transport of patients, in the post-conflict era are no longer needed."

Last night, the Red Cross was closing two offices. One of these is in Trincomalee, which had helped to provide medical care to about 30,000 injured civilians evacuated by sea from the conflict zone in the north east.

The other is in Batticaloa, where the Red Cross had been providing "protection services".

The Manik Farm camp was set up to house the largest number of the 300,000 mainly Tamil civilians forced to flee the northeast as army forces mounted a brutal offensive against the Tigers, who had been fighting for an ethnic Tamil homeland for 26 years.

Aid workers and the British Government have warned that conditions at the site are inadequate. (ANI)

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