Number of New Refugees and Internally Displaced in Sri Lanka’s Renewed Fighting Climbs to 213,000

The UN refugee agency UNHCR said in late August that fighting between government forces and the separatist Tamil Tigers has forced 204,620 people from their homes since April. However, humanitarian agencies still cannot reach all the locations where displaced people are residing (areas controlled by Tamil Tiger rebels but cut off by the government), and so the true numbers may be considerably higher. Earlier in August, UNHCR estimated that more than 162,200 people had fled their homes but remained within Sri Lanka, while 6,672 had sought refuge in India’s Tamil Nadu state. UNHCR now puts the number of Sri Lankan refugees that have arrived in India since the start of this year at 8,742. Meanwhile, some 315,000 people remain displaced due to the fighting that took place before the 2002 ceasefire, and about 80,000 Sri Lankan refugees remain in India. People uprooted by the war receive little if any support, in sharp contrast to the aid that was provided to survivors of the 2004 tsunami. Some 325,000 people were left homeless by the tsunami. Altogether, an estimated 860,000 people—out of a population of 20 million--have been displaced by the tsunami and the conflict.