Amnesty : Refugees in Sri Lanka fear for their safety amid desperate conditions

The Sri Lankan government must ensure that the more than 1,100 refugees and asylum-seekers forced from their homes by violent mobs in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday massacre are immediately provided with adequate security, food, shelter and healthcare, Amnesty International said today.

Living in fear of further attacks as anti-Muslim violence rises in Sri Lanka, these people are currently languishing in overcrowded community centres and a police station, offered to them in goodwill as places of temporary shelter. Amid dire conditions, they lack proper places to sleep, clean and adequate sanitation facilities, access to medical attention to treat illnesses that have proliferated in the makeshift shelters.

Targeted by mobs who blame them for the 21 April attacks that killed more than 250 people at three churches and three hotels, the refugees and asylum-seekers – many belonging to persecuted religious minorities from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan – say they are reliving the horrors that forced them to originally flee their own countries.

“These are people who have been dispossessed twice now because of their backgrounds. They had hoped to find safety in Sri Lanka after fleeing the violence of bigoted mobs in their own countries. Now, they are faced with the same fears that forced them here, leaving them unable to leave their shelters where they languish in dire conditions,” said Biraj Patnaik, South Asia Director at Amnesty International.

“The Sri Lankan government has a responsibility to ensure that these people have their dignity restored immediately. They need security to protect them, food to eat, doctors to meet their urgent health needs, comfortable places to sleep in privacy, and clean places where men and women can safely and separately bathe and use sanitation facilities.”

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