PORTRAITS OF DISPLACEMENT 2002-2006
Twenty years of civil war has devastated villages and towns of the North and East Sri Lanka, leaving some 65,000 people dead and more than 800,000 internally displaced while 800,000 ethnic Tamils sought refuge in other countries.
Yet despite the Ceasefire Agreement signed in February 2002 and subsequent rounds of peace talks facilitated by the Norwegian peace brokers between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elaam (LTTE), in April 2006 fighting broke out again, shattering the delicate peace in the North and the East and forcing hundreds of thousands of people back into displacement. During the absence of war, the United Nations and NGOs have assisted communities to rebuild their lives; even whilst conflict continues, efforts are made to alleviate suffering brought about by displacement.
Sri Lanka is also one of the Asian countries left devastated by the tsunami on 26th December 2004, killing 38,000 and leaving a further 150,000 homeless. The renewed conflict in the unstable regions hampered recovery projects and created bigger challenges for humanitarian aid agencies in assisting those affected.
Following the renewal of fighting, a large-scale offensive succeeded in breaking the prolonged stalemate. In January 2009, Government troops captured the northern town of Kilinochchi, held for ten years by the Tamil Tiger Rebels as their administrative headquarters. Steadily pushing the rebels into an ever-shrinking area in the Northeast before overrunning the last rebel-held position in May 2009, the government declared the Tamil Tigers defeated.The Killing of the Tamil Tigers leader Velupillai Prabakharan marked end of the war while more than 250,000 Tamil civilians are brought into camps in Vavuniya, forbidden to return home. As of now, neither independent mission nor journalists are allowed to enter Mulaitheevu area where it is believed that more than 40,000 civilians disappeared during the last offensive. The UN has alleged that both sides have committed atrocities and war crimes.