Families in Lanka camps search for missing children

May 22nd, 2009 - 5:37 pm ICT by ANI  

Colombo, May 22 (ANI): A report by the Save the Children charity has suggested that a fifth of all children were either missing or separated from one or both of their parents in northern Sri Lanka.The charity said that while the Sri Lankan government had taken some measures to reunite such families, the situation remained dire.

“The influx of people into the government camps was so large and so fast that I’ve come across hundreds of children who have lost their parents along the way. The running was so panicked that I’ve even met a lactating mother who lost her newborn as she was escaping,” The Independent quoted Stein Lied, a protection officer, as saying recently.

Families of these missing children are pleading with international aid agencies to help them to locate their children, some of whom have disappeared from the war zone.

Aid agencies fear that hundreds of children have become separated from their parents in the chaos that followed the escape of up to 300,000 people from the last land controlled by the LTTE rebels.

There are even allegations - denied by the government - that a number of children have been abducted from the camps by paramilitaries who enjoy tacit support from the authorities.

It is impossible to estimate how many families have become dislocated as they wait in the refugee camps, surrounded by razor wire and from which they are unable to leave.

Colombo has staunchly denied the accusations of paramilitaries taking children away to undisclosed locations. Mahinda Samarasinghe, the Minister for Disaster Management and Human Rights, said: “That is not correct. We have the responsibility for the protection [of people] in the camps.”

Samarasinghe said while there had been an initial problem of children being separated from their families, the issue was now being addressed and that around 3,000 families had now been reunited. He said telephones and databases had been set up at the camps to help families. He also said attention had been addressed to the problem of the flood of refugees overwhelming emergency medical facilities.

The government said it planned to return most of the nearly 300,000 civilians to their homes by the end of the year. (ANI)

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