Aid workers forced to leave Sri Lanka under strict new visa rules

June 3rd, 2009 - 1:03 pm ICT by ANI  

Colombo, June 3 (ANI): Sri Lanka is reportedly hampering international relief efforts by forcing dozens of British and other foreign aid workers to leave the country because it considers them sympathetic to the defeated Tamil Tigers, The Times has learnt.

Aid organizations say the policy is costing them tens of thousands of pounds of donors’ money as they struggle to help 280,000 Tamil civilians in internment camps.

The Government deported the Norwegian head of Forut, an Oslo-based NGO, on Saturday, and stopped a British employee of Forut from re-entering Sri Lanka last month, citing new rules that prevent them from staying in Sri Lanka for more than three years.

Two foreigners working for Care International, including a Briton, were forced to leave last month because their visas were not extended, local sources told The Times.

A Briton working for the Norwegian Refugee Council, Ethiopian working for the Save the Children Fund, and three foreign members of staff for ASB, a German NGO, have been forced to leave.

The British head of Solidar, a consortium of NGOs, was ordered to leave within seven days in December even though he had four children at school in Sri Lanka. He managed to negotiate a short extension.

The programme manager of Zoa Refugee Care, a Dutch NGO, was expelled from Sri Lanka in September and there are problems gaining visa extensions for five of the NGO’s foreign staff.

Among those who are likely to be forced to leave in the next few months are the country heads of Oxfam and the Danish Refugee Council.

“By September or October, 60 to 70 per cent of NGO heads will have left the country,” said one aid worker. (ANI)

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