NGOs smuggling IDPs out — Govt.

By Leon Berenger

Attempts to smuggle out youth from camps housing Internally Displaced people (IDPs) prompted the Government to impose restrictions on visits, a senior Government official said yesterday.

Human Rights Ministry Secretary Rajiva Wijesinha said certain persons with the connivance of Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) workers were involved in this plot.

In the light of this, security sources said, a thorough screening of IDPs was under way in the camps. The purpose was to identify persons who were either guerilla cadres or had links with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)

Mr. Wijesinha said the authorities were also looking into reports that paramilitary operatives were known to be loitering inside the camps after gaining access through certain NGOs and this matter was being treated seriously by government authorities.

“The restrictions are aimed at bringing the situation in the camps to manageable levels where security is given the top most priority.

Things get complicated when there are too many vehicles running up and down the camps thereby compromising security,” Prof: Wijesinha said.

He said 52 NGOs had been mandated to operate inside the IDP camps and none of them was willing to operate on foot but insisted they brought their air conditioned vehicles which raised a lot of dust and dirt in the air leading to an environmental issue.

“Therefore, we have asked them to reduce the number of vehicles during their movements inside the camps, and they have agreed,” he said.

UN’s Colombo spokesperson Gordon Weiss confirmed the reports that attempts had been made by certain persons to smuggle out groups of IDPs from the welfare centres and this prompted the authorities to bring in the restrictions.

“The situation indeed got out of control with so many aid agencies and individuals involved in the humanitarian work in the camps. Therefore the authorities were forced to act fast in bringing the situation under control,” Mr. Weiss said. Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies Chief Jeevan Thiyagarajah, however, said there was no truth in the reports that certain persons had attempted to smuggle out IDPs from the camps.

He said NGOs were continuing with their work despite the restrictions imposed on the movement of vehicles.

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