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Jim Luce

Jim Luce

Posted: June 4, 2009 06:25 PM

In Sri Lanka: A Look at the Refugee Camp


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Hope amidst chaos.


In the aftermath of Sri Lanka's victory over terrorism, there are many tears.

The Tamil Tigers have been defeated, but 280,000 Sri Lankan Tamils are now Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) - in short, refugees in their own country.

The world is beating a path to the camps, first United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, followed by a U.S. Congressman from North Carolina.

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The U.N. Security General visited the camp last week.


Reports from the camp are that the Sri Lankan government has moved mountains to accommodate more than a quarter million people since the war ended ten days ago. But there are many more mountains to move. They need massive assistance.

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Tamil children connected to the Secretary General.


I have already reported on the trip to the camp last week by U.S. Congressman Heath Shuler (Dem., N.C.) in this publication. He was much impressed with the progress the Sri Lankan government has made to meet the basic needs of its people so quickly.

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Several emergency hospitals have been put up by the government.


With images of our own response to the people of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, the speed in which the Tamil refugees have been provided for has been impressive. There is much, much more to do.

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The darkness is deep - and the children frightened.


The faces of children are heartbreaking. Even more tragic is that at least some of them had been trained as child soldiers by the Tamil Tigers. I will file a story shortly about a project just north of Colombo to rehabilitate the child soldiers who have been rescued.

One young girl rescued by the Sri Lankan forces reported she had been "dragged screaming from her family. She was told to move forward against the Sri Lankan troops, and that she would be shot from behind if she hesitated.

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With over 280,000 refugees, the need is staggeringly enormous.


The Sri Lankan government has already begun to clear an additional 1,000 acres to expand the refugee camp. Overcrowding is one of the most serious challenges the refugees now face. The heavy mining done by the Tigers is another.

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In this MASH unit, they are saving civilians, not soldiers.


The Chef's Guild of Sri Lanka -- an association of restaurant and hotel chefs -- have stepped up to cook 30,000 meals a day for the Tamil refugees. They did the same for their fellow Sri Lankans following the Tsunami.

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Over 280,000 men, women, and children - over 280,000 stories.


116,000 soldiers belonged to the Sri Lankan military at the beginning of 2009. As the Tigers began to face defeat, more and more young Sri Lankans enlisted, swelling the troop number to 200,000 by the time the battle was over two weeks ago,

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United Nations floating hospitals are actively involved.


The government has already sent 10,000 sets of school furniture and 25,000 school uniforms for children in the camp to resume their education. More than 3,000 teachers are among the refugees.

The international community is helping in the camps but needs to do much more. As of last week, there are seven U.N. agencies and 17 international NGO's involved, including the Red Cross.

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Sri Lankan troops seem to genuinely care for the kids.


The children in the refugee camps of Sri Lanka's north -- almost 1,000 of them orphaned -- will remember how the Tamil Tigers used them as human shields. They will remember the kindness and generosity of their fellow Sri Lankans who rescued them.

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These children will always remember their rescuers.


This massive rescue effort should ensure that the next generation in Sri Lanka lives in peace and harmony, a dream that has been unachieved for the last three generations.

Hopefully Europe and North America will join this massive humanitarian effort. The next generation of Tamil children -- in fact, all Sri Lankan children -- would remember their neglect just as sharply.