Birkenhead made a buffer zone between warring factions

Occasionally in the Amnesty press office we get random calls asking ‘what’s the worst crisis right now that no one’s reporting?’ (and another favourite, ‘do you know where any war criminals are hiding? can I have their addresses?’)

 

Usually we respond in an Amnesty house style, measured way that there are these half dozen crises that need more attention, and explain that Amnesty is not in the habit of saying which is worse than any other because human suffering can’t be compared in that way.

 

But if I’d taken that call today I’d have been tempted to say there is an ongoing human rights crisis in Sri Lanka that is also about to turn into a humanitarian disaster and it’s barely registering on the global radar. More than 300,000 people – the population of Birkenhead and surrounding areas – have been forced from their homes in the north of the country by fighting between the Tamil Tigers and government forces.

 

Amnesty believes the Tamil Tigers are actually deliberately using a strict pass system, which severely restricts people’s freedom of movement, so that this huge population can be used as a buffer between them and the government.

 

The government’s response? They think they’re close to military success and have recently blocked humanitarian aid to 1000s of families, including turning back UN convoys carrying shelter kits and food. The immediate future must be very frightening for all those without homes or adequate food and now facing the monsoon season.

 

Journalists are finding it very hard to get in – access is restricted and both sides are fighting a propaganda war as forcefully as the military one making information very unreliable.

 Amnesty has managed to get some photos from the region showing the desperation of families forced to flee their homes, people waiting for water and medicines in displaced persons camps and the sickening reality of civilians living in the middle of a war zone.

Tell as many people as you can.

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