UNHCR praises Canadian response to Sri Lanka refugees

(United Nations) – The United Nations refugee agency said yesterday it is encouraged by the way Canadian authorities have handled the situation involving 490 Sri Lankan nationals of Tamil origin who arrived by boat to the country last week and have claimed asylum.

The group, which includes men, women and children, were passengers of the cargo ship MV Sun Sea that docked at Vancouver Island in the province of British Columbia on Friday.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) noted that the reception site for the arrivals was well designed, and that needs in terms of information gathering, food and water have been well anticipated.

“Based on what we have seen thus far, we commend the exemplary work of the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) in coordinating the arrival and reception of the MV Sun Sea passengers,” UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told reporters in Geneva. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jesuit Superior meets JRS staff after recent visit to Sri Lanka

Fr. Adolfo Nicolas S.J., Father General of the Society of Jesus, visited the Province of Sri Lanka last month. While visiting the region of Colombo-Galle, Father Nicolás stressed several themes particularly dear to him: depth of commitment, creativity and life in the Spirit, and inserting these into the specific reality of Jesuits in Sri Lanka today.

He noted that technology can be a powerful aid to serious intellectual work and to the strengthening of commitment but that it can be a temptation to superficiality. He concluded by saying that unless religious life shows such experiential commitment it will have little to say to Asia so steeped in deep and ancient religious traditions.

Fr. Adolfo Nicolás S.J. is introduced to Jesuit Refugee Service staff by JRS International Director Fr. Peter Balleis, S.J., Thursday at the Curia in Rome.

Fr. Adolfo Nicolás S.J. is introduced to Jesuit Refugee Service staff by JRS International Director Fr. Peter Balleis, S.J., Thursday, March 11, 2010 at the Curia in Rome.

The meeting with the Jesuits of Kandy district was an opportunity to highlight the challenges the Society faces in Sri Lanka.  He called attention to the promotion of dialogue between the north and the south of the nation and among factions who are in conflict.  It is necessary, he said, to build bridges and form alliances that will promote a just society.

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UN: lack of progress on key issues in Sri Lanka

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Monday expressed concerns about the lack of progress on political reconciliation, the treatment of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the setting up of an accountability process in Sri Lanka since the United Nations signed a joint statement with the Government last year in the wake of the end of its civil war with separatist Tamil rebels.

Mr. Ban said that he had “a frank and honest exchange of views” last Thursday about these subjects during a telephone conversation with President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka, where the runner-up candidate in January’s presidential elections, General Sarath Fonseka, was subsequently arrested for alleged “military offences” and the parliament was dissolved. Read the rest of this entry »

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War refugees struggle to rebuild in Sri Lanka

The Washington Post reports that those displaced by the long war in Sri Lanka face a daunting task in an attempt to return to a semblance of a normal life.

War refugees have found little left of their old lives as they trickle back to their villages in the former Tamil Tiger stronghold eight months after Sri Lankan forces crushed the rebel group.

“We are happy to be back but confused about what to do next,” Subramanium Muthurasu, 66, said. “We have to start farming, but we don’t have the resources. We stand empty-handed.”

The full story can be read here.

UN: Sri Lanka should allow children to return home

AFP reports Retired Major General Patrick Cammaert, the UN special envoy on children and armed conflict, said children who had been conscripted by the Tamil Tiger rebels should be allowed to return to their families.

“Hundreds of children are still missing or separated from their parents. They must be reunited as soon as possible,” the Dutch UN official said during a visit to Sri Lanka.

Cammaert is in Sri Lanka on behalf of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy.

The six-day mission, at the invitation of the Government, is aimed at following up on the recommendations of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict on Sri Lanka within the framework of Security Council Resolution 1612 from 2005.

Mr. Cammaert will ascertain firsthand the situation of the children affected by the recent conflict with a view to ensure greater child protection. Particular attention will be paid to the situation of displaced children and the reintegration of children formerly associated with armed groups into civilian life.

He will meet with Government officials, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society representatives and children, and report to the Security Council Working Group when he returns.

Sri Lanka continues media ban on war refugees

AFP reports that despite proclamations to the contrary, the government of Sri Lanka is continuing to bar journalists from reporting on people displaced by the war in Sri Lanka. The northern part of the island nation is still off-limits to reporters.

Foreign minister Rohitha Bogollagama declared in a BBC interview Tuesday that the media now had full access, prompting a flood of requests from reporters to travel to the former war zone in the north.

But restrictions on visits to the northern district of Vavuniya where the government maintains its camp complex remain in place despite them being declared “open” on Tuesday.

“The restrictions on journalists to visit displaced people in camps have not been relaxed yet,” Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe told reporters. Pressed for a date when the camps would be open to the media, the minister said: “We are trying to lift the ban on media access, but it will take time.”

The few visits that have been allowed have been under strict military supervision.