Refugee crisis in Jaffna war zones

Place: Jaffna | Courtesy: TamilNet
| Date: 20000401

Local officials and Catholic church sources said today that they are fast running out of rice gruel for more than 7500 persons displaced in the Pallai sector due to the fighting between the Liberation Tigers and the Sri Lanka army. They said there aren't funds or supplies to feed the people who fled the shelling in Pallai and Maasar, north of the Elephant Pass garrison, since Monday, March 27 as all civilian transport has come to a halt because of the fighting on the A9 highway and the interior between Pallai and Eluthumadduval.

International and local humanitarian agencies based in Jaffna town have not been able to respond to this crisis so far the officials and church workers said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), however, handed out non food relief items to about 109 persons who arrived in Jaffna town from the war zone when the fighting broke out. The ICRC went up to Mirusuvil today to assess the situation.

Meanwhile, more than two hundred families that left the war zone on Jaffna's southeastern coast since Tuesday, March 28 have sought refuge in Chundikulam, a coastal village by the southern side of the estuary of the Elephant Pass lagoon.

These families are from Chempiyanpattu, Kaddaikadu and Maruthankerni sources said. Most of these families are living in the open because no temporary shelters are available in this village, an aid agency source said today.

Civilians who are unable to move into the SLA controlled parts of Jaffna near the war zone in the southern sectors of Vadamaradchi east are taking the old coastal road to Mullaithivu along Vaththirayan, Aliyawalai, Vettilaikerni and Chundikulam since the fall of the SLA base complex in Thalaiyadi.

The hamlets of Chembiyanpattu and Vaththirayan are contiguous with Thalaiyadi to its north and south respectively. The shortest access to the A9 (Kandy Road) for the villages on the coast south of Thalaiyadi is the road branching west from the old coastal road at Maruthankerni junction to the Puthukkaadu junction on the main highway.

The Maruthankerni junction and village are less than two kilometers from Thalaiyadi on the road from the latter village to the A9. The forward defence localities of the SLA base in Thalaiyadi were spread in Chembiyanpattu and Vaththirayan. A satellite camp of the base was at Maruthankerni junction.

With the fall of the Thalaiyadi base and the Maamunai camp last week there are no SLA positions on the old coastal road to block traffic between the Wanni mainland and the southeastern coast of Jaffna up to Kudarappu. This is why some civilians in this region are going south to the Wanni for refuge and treatment an aid worker in Jaffna said.

Officials said that there are about five hundred persons displaced from the war zones in Pt.Pedro. They are now housed in three Catholic churches in the town.

War zone refugees arrive

[TamilNet, April 02, 2000 13:32 GMT]

More than five thousand Tamils in the Pallai and Pachchilaipalli areas in Jaffna arrived at Kilali late this morning, Catholic church sources in the north said. Most of the civilians were blocked at Kilali by the Sri Lanka army. Only about 200 families were allowed until noon to proceed beyond Kilali to Mirusuvil. The Catholic church is the only organisation assisting the people arriving from the war zone, according to the Tamilnet correspondent who was at Kilali and Mirusuvil today.

Following reports that thousands of people in the exodus from Pallai and Pachchilaipalli had been held up by the SLA at Kilali, the Vicar General of the Jaffna Diocese, Rev. J.P.E Selvarajah got in touch with the Sri Lankan Security Forces commander for Jaffna, Maj.Gen. Sarath Fonseka and obtained permission from him to bring everyone from Kilali to Mirusuvil.

The Tamilnet's Jaffna correspondent said that it was late in the afternoon around 4.15 p.m. when the Vicar General was able to rush to Kilali with the security forces commander's permission for the release of the civilians blocked by the army from proceeding to Mirusuvil.

The Tamilnet correspondent said that the condition of the refugees is very deplorable as there is no one to assist them except seven priests from the Jaffna Catholic Church who are already overworked. He said that their cassocks are splattered with blood and mud as many war wounded have also come in the exodus.

Meanwhile, the Chavakachcheri Divisional Secretary (DS), Mr.S. Sundarampillai declined to give cooked food for the refugees arriving in Mirusuvil from the war zone on the ground that he has to first get permission from the Jaffna Kachcheri to do so.

The refugee crisis could turn acute with the expected arrival of the thousands held up at Kilali later in the day Jaffna Catholic Church sources said. The situation could deteriorate further tomorrow because of the Divisional Secretary's refusal to provide cooked food and the inability or reluctance of the international aid agencies in Jaffna to visit the Mirusuvil area, said the Tamilnet correspondent.