Skip to main content

Sri Lanka

Volume 124: debated on Wednesday 16 December 1987

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Indian Government concerning the refugee situation in Jaffna, Sri Lanka.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
(Mr. Tim Eggar)

We have made no representations. We understand that few people left Jaffna during the recent fighting, although there was severe dislocation within the province. The Indian Government have since provided relief supplies. Services are now being restored and life is gradually returning to normal.

Does the Minister realise that there are no independent and reliable reports of what is going on in Jaffna? The International Red Cross is not being allowed in to bring humanitarian and medical aid. There may be thousands of homeless people or refugees. Many people outside Jaffna are asking, "If the Indian Government have nothing to hide, why do they not allow in independent observers and agencies?" Is it not about time that the Government made representations in strong terms to the Indian Government to allow the International Red Cross and other observers to find out exactly what is going on in the province and to try to assist what may still be a severely disruptive and unsatisfactory international situation?

I am not entirely sure where the hon. Gentleman gets his information. Many people appear to have fled their homes during the fighting, but most, if not all, returned later. Food and medical supplies are being provided by the Indian Government. The hon. Gentleman will be delighted to hear that on 10 December, in Colombo, Her Majesty's Government were represented at a meeting that was convened by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Will my hon. Friend make it absolutely clear to the House that the harm that is being done to refugees on the Jaffna peninsula lies clearly at the door of the Tamil Tigers, who have a callous disregard for civilian life, and not at the door of the Indian Government'?

We very much support the agreement reached between the Indian Government and the Sri Lankan Government. We believe that that agreement is the only route to a lasting solution of the ethnic conflict.