UN strongly warns Lanka over continued holding of civilians in refugee camps

      The United Nations has strongly warned Sri Lanka that the world body cannot continue funding indefinitely the huge refugee camps in the north of the country, and asked the authorities to allow the hundreds of Tamil civilians to leave. The senior UN official in the country hardened their stand when they said the camps should be a last resort for civilians with nowhere else to go. Sri Lanka faces increasing international criticism over its treatment of the estimated 300,000 civilians held in camps, with the EU poised to cancel a trade concession worth one billion dollars to the government, The Independent reports. Humanitarian aid groups have complained that conditions in the vast Menik Farms camp, where most people remain behind razor wire are still inadequate four months after the decades-long civil war ended. "Nothing has changed over the past three months for the people in the camps. They are overcrowded, with poor sanitary conditions and inadequate health care. There are concerns about what may happen when the monsoon rains arrive in the next couple of months," the UK-based Catholic Fund for Overseas Development said on Friday. The UN's senior official in Sri Lanka, Neil Buhne, told the BBC: "The best solution is, obviously, that as many people leave as soon as possible; and, for the people who have no place else to go, that the site can become an open one." UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has also said that he intends to speak directly to Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to protest against the decision to expel the spokesman for Unicef, accused by the government of acting as "propagandist" for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. He will also raise the issue of two UN workers in the Tamil-dominated north arrested in June.

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