The situation is dangerous for the civilians who have fled the area. For the IDPs in the camps, there is a risk of a shortage of food, a risk of shortage of drugs and medication. There is extreme fatigue on the part of humanitarian workers who cannot be replaced because there are problems to grant them visas. So to access the area, there are serious frictions, humanitarian agencies are very worried, including MSF, UNHCR, ICRC, and others.
At the same time, there is clearly some will by the government of Sri Lanka to try to address this situation, and the Sri Lankan Ambassador clearly said that there was a commitment by his government not to launch a huge military offensive, with inevitable heavy casualties. So we can only regret, as Vijay Nambiar has said, the fact that the government of Sri Lanka still refuses a renewed truce for a humanitarian ceasefire. They are still working on the issue however, and there are good contacts with the UN, who also proposed good offices for overseeing the political process at the end of the war. Because the war will end eventually, and we’ll have to work together to rebuild that part of the country and to create political conditions for a durable peace.
(How about the number of IDPs ?)
He was not very clear, because it’s impossible to know. What he said is that the satellite observations show that there are still several tens of thousands of people trapped in the area, but nobody knows if it is 30 000, 40 000, 50 000. There are no journalists, no NGOs, no humanitarian workers on the ground in the area where these civilians are trapped.
(What about freedom of movement in the IDP camps ?)
It is also something which the UN are discussing with the government of Sri Lanka, with the ICRC. And the UN want to be more closely associated with the screening of the people in the camps to be sure that the people are treated fairly.
But we have to make a difference between the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE. I want to recall once again, that the LTTE is a terrorist organisation which is using terrorist means to achieve its goals. They are on the terrorist list of the European Union. So we condemn them very clearly and we don’t want to give any opportunity for the LTTE to get out of the trap of their own making. We make a clear distinction between a terrorist group and a democratic government.
That being said, it is true that most of the burden, because they have succeeded in the offensive, most of the burden now is on the shoulders of the Sri Lankan authorities - because they have won the war. And they have the responsibility to protect their own population. This is very clear, so I used these words.
(When you say that they are in a trap of their own making, what do you mean?)
The LTTE are losing the war. So they should surrender, they should stop violence, they should release the hostages, the civilian people. It is unacceptable that they are using them as human shields. They should surrender and let the Tamil people, as well as the other people of Sri Lanka live in peace. They deserve it after dozens of years of war. /.