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Sri Lanka: Politics and Government

Volume 487: debated on Thursday 5 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what assessment he has made of the security and safety of people within the humanitarian space which has been designated by the government of Sri Lanka in the northern region of the country; (253347)

(2) what recent assessment he has made of the effect of the security situation in the northern region of Sri Lanka on the ability of humanitarian convoys to deliver assistance to those who are displaced.

The security and safety of civilians in northern Sri Lanka, and their access to relief supplies is difficult to assess but causes great concern, especially following the Sri Lankan forces' recent offensive. We are extremely concerned at reports of civilian casualties within the designated safe zone and urge all parties to ensure the safety of non-combatants. We particularly deplore the recent shelling of a hospital.

We constantly monitor the situation through our high commission and other sources, supplemented by field visits by DFID humanitarian staff. We have recently programmed £2.5 million humanitarian funding through the UN, Red Cross and non-government organisations. We are sending another humanitarian mission in the next few weeks and have agreed a further £2.5 million humanitarian funding.

The problem will not be resolved by funding alone. We are resolute in pressing for better humanitarian access for aid convoys and other relief within safe humanitarian space. The Foreign Secretary repeated this to President Rajapakse on 30 January.