Trincomalee refugees flee to Rameswaram

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 24 May 2006, 11:03 GMT]
More than 120 civilians belonging to 31 families reached Rameswaram in South India by boats from Mannar Wednesday, as numbers of refugees fleeing Trincomalee to South India escaleated, sources in Rameswaram said. Another 234 refugees had arrived in South India's coast Tuesday night. Civil society sources in Mannar said that around 1000 refugees from Sri Lanka Army (SLA) controlled areas of Thirukadaloor, Padukkai, Nilaveli and Kinniya in Trincomalee had come to Mannar and Talaimannar to flee the island, since the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) bombing and the recent escalation of violence in Trincomalee.

Nearly 400 of the refugees are staying with their relatives in Moor street, Emil Nagar, Thottaveli, Panangattikoti and Siruthoppu areas in Mannar district.

Sethusamudram Map
Inspite of rough seas and threats from the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) that they will shoot on sight boats seen in the seas after 7:30 p.m., most of the refugees are determined to travel to South India seeking safety, civil society sources said. Some of the families have previously been in South India as refugees who had come back to NorthEast after the CFA was signed, sources added.

Many families have sold all their belongings and are prepared to pay boat-owners up to Rs 9000 per person for the sea-transport to Rameswaram.

296 members from 70 families are being accommodated in the Lady of Victory church in Pesalai from 20 May. About 100 of these have disappeared on Monday night and were believed to have taken the hazardous journey to Rameswaram in thirteen boats from Talaimannar. Civil society sources. No details are available of their reaching the South India coast, civil society sources in Mannar said.

Church administrators have complained that they are running short of resources to help the refugees and have sought help from non Governmental organizations. Civil society sources said the remaining refugees may be soon moved to the Mannar Fisheries Cooperation building along Mannar-Talaimannar road.

Divisional Secretary Ms Stanley de Mel has appealed to ZOA, TRO and UNHCR to provide assistance in looking after the refugees, sources in Mannar said.

Meanwhile, near SLA, SLN checkpoints in Mannar, posters under the name of Liberation Tigers, were found to contain warnings against people leaving Mannar to South India. Civi society sources, alleging that the posters were put up by the Sri Lanka Army, said such posters will have little effect on the refugees staying in Mannar.

22 boat refugees arrested by SLN and handed over to Police in Talaimannar, were released Wednesday after Additional Magistrate T.J. Prabakaran attended the investigation. The two boat owners were released on surety bail, each with 25 000 Rupees.

Meanwhile, a further 30 refugees from Koonithivu in Trincomalee had arrived in Mannar St. Sebastian Cathedral Wednesday, Church sources said.


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