IRB – Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (Author)
No specific mention of, or information about, Veppankulam Transit Camp and who was in control of it in 1999, updating the information provided in LKA30171.E of 6 October 1998 and LKA32775.E of 30 September 1999, could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
Two 1996 documents make brief references to Veppankulam Transit Camp without actually stating who was in control of it. They are reproduced below:According to the USCR report entitled
Site Visit to Sri Lanka and South India During November 1996,
Before the 22nd of October 1996, people would cross into Vavuniya from the Wanni, but in small numbers. People would wait at the border to cross into Vavuniya. However on the 22nd of October, the Government made an announcement that it was going to let anyone in who wanted to come in. Some 14,000 people within two weeks did that. They went into Vavuniya and the local administration there had to react very quickly. They closed seven schools to create so-called Welfare Centers. They are trying to improve infrastructure around the schools. There is also the College of Education and 2 transit camps, so there are altogether 11 "Welfare Centers" for people in Vavuniya.
The conditions at these centers are pretty bad. I went to four of them. (Two Transit Centers and two of the so-called Welfare Centers). One was a camp that split youth and families, called Veppankulam. This was a focal point of security clearance. Anyone who came into the city and hadn't been cleared at all went into these camps. The men were separated from the women at the youth side and they were basically kept in large storage centers. The storage centers were open - no privacy; mats on the floor; extremely hot; flies everywhere: four toilets for men, four for women and the numbers there were about 500 each-so about 100 people to a toilet. They were given food in Vavuniya by the Government. Some had a canteen but people were not buying anything. I guess they didn't have much extra money to buy anything.
The 22 October 1996 UTHR publication entitled The Vanni: A People Crushed Between Cycles of Violence has two paragraphs in the section "Vavuniya: Categories of Citizenship and Unnecessary Excesses of Security" that state that:
For young people, things are even more uncertain. They are questioned at the point of entry by officers of Military Intelligence, and the Counter Subversive Unit and National Investigation Bureau of the Police. All of them maintain separate files. Quite often those being questioned are beaten and young girls are spoken to in abusive language. About 200 or more youth are kept overnight at the entry point screening centre. This process could take up to three days. Those cleared at the interrogation centre to proceed to Colombo are then sent to the camp at Veppankulam meant for south bound travellers. Once they contact friends or relatives in the South by telephone or by fax and get confirmation that someone will take responsibility for them they are transferred to the Railway Station camp from where they board the train after getting clearance. ...
As for permission for the young to enter Vavuniya from the North, lists are prepared jointly by Kachcheri administrative officials and security officials, but the ultimate authority is the brigadier in charge of Vavuniya. Following complaints, there were moves to involve the Red Cross. This too ran into some controversy as the LTTE also wanted a say in the preparation of lists. In the matter of permission to proceed to Colombo at the three camps at Veppankulam, Nelum Kulam and the railway station, both security and Kachcheri officials are involved. But again the brigadier is the final authority. The civil authority, the Government Agent (GA), has no power in the matter. It is said that the GA has visited the Nelum Kulam camp only twice, facing a barrage of sarcastic questions such as "If we give you Rs.50,000 would you let us go?". Such questions stem from a deep- seated anger among civilians. They have seen people going after invisible arrangements are made. Talk of corruption is widespread.
The Research Directorate contacted the Red Cross and UNHCR in Canada, as well as the Centre for Human Rights and Development in Colombo, but has not yet received any response other than from the Red Cross stating that it was forwarding the request to the ICRC.
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR). 10
December 1996. Site Visit To Sri Lanka and South India During
November 1996. /emhttp://www.sangam.org/FB_REPORTS/ uscr.htm>
[Accessed 22 Nov. 1999] (transcript of the briefing given)
UTHR. 22 October 1996. Bulletin No.12.
The Vanni: A People Crushed Between Cycles of Violence. http://www.tamilnation.org/humanrights/uthr/uthr96%20vanni.htm
[Accessed 22 Nov. 1999]
Additional Sources Consulted
Electronic sources: various Internet
sites, IRB Databases.
Unsuccessful attempts to contact:
- Red Cross, Ottawa.
- Centre for Human Rights and
Development (CHRD), Colombo.
- UNHCR, Ottawa