More Than 160,000 Sri Lankans Displaced Since April by Escalating Fighting

Continued heavy fighting in the north and east of Sri Lanka, particularly in the Jaffna peninsula in the north, has sent many more thousands of civilians fleeing their homes in search of safety. However, freedom of movement is heavily restricted in many areas by local curfews and by fighting, making it difficult both for civilians to move and for aid to be delivered to them. Food and water shortages are reported to be severe. Aid agencies are not only hemmed in by the surging violence, but they also encounter growing suscpicion, hostility, and deadly attacks.

  • Civilians in the northern Jaffna district have been able to move only a short distance from the coast to avoid the most intense fighting; they have not been able to travel to safer areas.
  • While air strikes in Batticaloa district have hindered access to many affected areas, UN and other aid agencies have worked to secure safe passage to the LTTE-controlled area of Vaharai.
  • Access to Muttur and Eachchilampattu in Trincomalee district is still blocked, and an estimated 15,000 people are still trapped there. Resources in Kantale—a small town south of Trincomalee, where many of the district's 50,000-plus displaced people went—are coming under enormous strain.

Since the 2002 ceasefire agreement began unraveling in April 2006, UNHCR has recorded 128,850 people newly displaced within the country. An additional 6,672 Sri Lankans have become refugees in India’s Tamil Nadu state since the beginning of the year. Press reports indicate that as of 18 August, the number of civilians displaced had climbed to 162,000.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), “Fighting Makes it Difficult for Sri Lankans to Find Safety and for UNHCR to Deliver Aid,” Geneva, 15 August 2006.
“Aid Plea After Sri Lanka Clashes,” BBC News Online, 18 August 2006.