COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — The United Nations welcomed the closure of a huge camp for war-displaced civilians in northern Sri Lanka, but expressed concern about hundreds of people who have been unable to return home because their land is occupied by the military.
The U.N humanitarian coordinator in Sri Lanka, Sabinay Nandy, said in a statement Tuesday that the closure of Manik Farm is a "milestone event" toward ending displacement in Sri Lanka.
But he said 346 people from 110 families who were among the last to leave the camp were relocated elsewhere while they await confirmation of whether they will be allowed to return to their former homes.
"It is important that the displaced people should be able to make an informed and voluntary decision about their future including being part of the planning and management of their resettlement," Nandy said.
Manik Farm housed 225,000 ethnic Tamil civilians after government troops defeated Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009, ending a quarter-century civil war, and was considered the largest refugee camp in the world.
Aid workers and foreign diplomats feared that Manik Farm would become an internment camp. International pressure resulted in residents being resettled in their former lands in stages. However, many resettled civilians have complained that they have not been adequately supported in rebuilding their homes.
In announcing the camp's closure Monday, the government said it has spent $360 million on the resettlement process.
Many thousands of people displaced by the war continue to live with relatives and friends across north and eastern Sri Lanka, according to the U.N.