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Tamils returning home after war's end

VAVUNIYA, Sri Lanka, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- The U.N. humanitarian chief said more than half the number of Tamils in northern Sri Lanka who were in refugee camps have now left them.

John Holmes visited the area and said fewer than 135,000 of the peak number of 300,000 people remained in the camps, the BBC reported Thursday.

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Holmes said it was obvious the Tamils were glad to be going back to their villages.

Holmes said he has concerns about the returns process, as there had been a lack on consultation with the United Nations and with the refugees themselves.

"The places I saw have got basic services," but areas where people were coming back to must be "properly de-mined and certified as de-mined," Holmes said.

The Tamil Tiger rebels began fighting in the 1970s for a separate state in Sri Lanka's north and east, saying that Tamils were discriminated against by successive Sinhalese governments. The camps were set up to shelter Tamils who fled the last stages of a 25-year civil war between troops and the Tiger rebels, which ended in May.

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