I read some shocking news this morning. The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers (of which Amnesty International is a member) said yesterday that children are being abducted from refugee camps in northern Sri Lanka by Tamil paramilitary groups allied with the government. It’s not clear what the motives are for the abductions. Some children may have been taken due to suspicion of links with the opposition Tamil Tigers, while others appear to be kidnapped for ransom. The abductions are happening at night when security at the camps is reduced.
The Sri Lankan government recently completed its military offensive against the Tigers, recapturing all the territory held by them and reportedly killing their leaders. The Tigers had been seeking an independent state for the Tamil minority in the north and east of the island. About 270,000 civilians were displaced by the fighting in recent months and are now in overcrowded camps in the north which they’re not allowed to leave.
The UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, said recently that she was negotiating with the Sri Lankan government to send a special envoy to assess the situation of children in Sri Lanka first hand. The Sri Lankan government has reportedly agreed in principle to such a visit.
It’s urgent that the Sri Lankan government provide adequate security immediately at the camps to protect the children. We can’t wait for the UN special envoy to arrive in Sri Lanka. The people of Sri Lanka have suffered enough during the war between the government and the Tamil Tigers. No more parents should experience the anguish of losing their children.