by Stefan Christoff (Hour.ca)
Montreal's Tamil community wants to raise awareness about the worsening conflict in Sri Lanka as well as protect Tamil refugee applicants in Canada who face deportation back to a war zone.
In recent months, the Sri Lankan military has heightened aerial bombardments and military actions in areas home to the separatist Tamil Tigers, vowing to flush them out by 2008.
"Recently there has been a rise in human rights violations against the Tamil community in Sri Lanka," says Ramani Balendra of the Tamil Action Committee (TAC), which is working with the Immigrant Workers' Centre in Côte-des-Neiges to launch a public awareness campaign about the armed conflict that has caused tens of thousands of civilians to be displaced. Photo: Keith Ng – Internally displaced Tamil refugee)
"The Sri Lankan military is using cluster bombs and creating extremely dangerous conditions for civilians. We are demanding that the Canadian government pressure the Sri Lankan government to stop using cluster bombs and generally [halt] the armed assault that has been devastating for all Tamils," says Balendra.
The impacts of the conflict are being most felt by civilians in the northern Vanni region, an area largely sympathetic to the separatist Tigers. While major media outlets and international NGOs haven't been able to access affected areas until recently, internally displaced refugees have been left without international aid.
"Many people are malnourished in a serious way and people are being forced to move between houses due to the aerial bombardment from the Sri Lankan
army," says Balendra. "Both sides have a responsibility – the Sri Lankan government has isolated Tamil people and should have vacated them before the bombings."
Human Rights Watch reported this week that under unrelenting military pressure, Tamil Tigers have increasingly subjected Tamils with forced military service and kept them trapped in war zones.
For more information on the Immigrant Workers' Centre and the TAC campaign, visit www.iwc-cti.ca.