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British Foreign Office advise confirms dire situation in Sri Lanka



(October 31, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Sri Lanka is considered as a risky country to visit for any British visitors. The latest travel advice filed by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office details number of issues for the travellers to be aware of and guides travellers to avoid travelling to certain parts of Sri Lanka. In addition advising on terrorism generally, the country profile also advises visitors of sexual offences and muggings.

The country profile on Sri Lanka states:


There is a high threat from terrorism in Sri Lanka. In 2008 fatal attacks have become more frequent. They have occurred in Colombo and throughout Sri Lanka, including in places frequented by expatriate and foreign travellers. Further attacks may occur at any time. There is an increasing risk of British nationals being caught up in an attack. See the Terrorism section of this advice for more details.

We advise against all travel to the north and east of Sri Lanka, and to Yala National Park and the areas around it.

For the purpose of this travel advice we consider the north to be all areas north of the A12 road (which runs from Puttalam in the west to Trincomalee in the east) including the Jaffna peninsula. We consider the east to be the districts of Trincomalee and Batticaloa, as well as coastal areas of Ampara district east of the A25 and A27 roads . We define the areas around Yala National Park as those east of the A2 and south of the A4. See the Terrorism and Local Travel sections of this advice for more details.

There is heightened security in Sri Lanka and you are advised to comply with government and security force instructions. There have been detentions particularly of people of Tamil ethnicity. You should ensure that you carry some form of official identification with you at all times. If you are detained, you should ask the authorities to contact the British High Commission.

We strongly recommend that all British nationals who are resident and/or working in Sri Lanka, or visiting for over one month, should register with the British High Commission in Colombo.

About 90,000 British nationals visit Sri Lanka each year (source: Sri Lanka tourism board). The main types of incident for which British nationals required consular assistance in Sri Lanka in 2007 were: replacing lost or stolen passports; deaths, mostly from natural causes; and arrests or detentions.


We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake. See the General (Insurance) section of this advice and Travel Insurance for more details.

Safety and security

Terrorism

There is a high threat from terrorism in Sri Lanka. Fatal attacks have become more frequent. They have occurred in Colombo and throughout Sri Lanka, including places frequented by expatriate and foreign travellers. Further attacks may occur at any time. There is an increasing risk of British nationals being caught up in an attack. For further information see Terrorism Abroad.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE “the Tamil Tigers”) are engaged in a long running armed insurgency against the Sri Lankan authorities. You should avoid military, government and paramilitary locations, as these have been the most frequent targets of attacks. However, recent attacks have specifically targeted civilians, including on public transport.

Between November 2007 and early January 2008 there were five significant bomb attacks in greater Colombo, two targeting government ministers, one targeting military personnel and two designed to cause loss of civilian life. Since the beginning of 2008, at least 167 civilians have been killed and over 365 injured in attacks across Sri Lanka. There have been regular terrorist attacks in Colombo and the surrounding area, a number of which have targeted Government Ministers. Between January and April 2008 there have been at least five attacks against civilians travelling on buses and trains resulting in over 75 deaths and many injuries. In recent weeks there have been a number of small-scale bomb attacks on public areas and transportation in and around Colombo that have caused some injuries.

More recently significant attacks include:

On 28 October the LTTE carried out air raids on the Kelanitissa power station in Colombo’s northern suburbs and on a military camp at Thaladi in Mannar in the north of the country.

On 6 October, a bomb attack in Anuradhapura at the offices of the main opposition United National Party killed at least 25 people including a prominent retired Sri Lankan army general.


On 6 June 2008, a roadside explosive device killed at least 21 people and injured over 50 more on a bus near Katubedda (a suburb of Colombo). A further explosion on a bus at Polgolla on the Wellegama to Kandy road is reported to have killed at least two people and injured at least 20 more.


On 4 June 2008, a bomb attack on a train between Wellawata and Dehiwala railway stations is reported to have injured at least 24 people. An earlier bomb attack on 26 May on a train near Dehiwela (a suburb of Colombo) caused fatalities and injuries.

On 16 May 2008, a bomb attack near the Hilton hotel in the Fort area of Central Colombo killed at least 10 people with 90 others reported to have been injured.

On 9 May 2008, an explosion at a cafe in the town of Ampara, (220km/130 miles) from Colombo killed at least 12 people and injured over 20 others.

On 6 April 2008, a bomb killed 10 people including a Sri Lankan government minister at a public event in a stadium near Gampaha, about 30km north-east of Colombo.

Crime

Violent crimes against foreigners are relatively infrequent, although there have been reports of sexual offences and muggings. When travelling around Sri Lanka, you should make arrangements through reputable travel companies (such as those identified in your guidebook or local listings information) and exercise appropriate caution. Women should take care when travelling alone.

There has been an increase in the number of reported thefts from hotels and guesthouses. You should take sensible precautions to safeguard your valuables, especially passports and money.

Credit card fraud is an increasing problem. You should seek advice on using your credit and/or debit cards in Sri Lanka from your credit card company or bank.

For more general information see Victims of Crime Abroad.

Political Situation

Sri Lanka Country Profile

You should follow local developments closely, be aware of your surroundings and alert to changing situations.

There is heightened security, throughout the country. The security forces are a visible presence and road checkpoints are common. The government of Sri Lanka's security legislation provides wide-ranging discretionary powers. There have been detentions, particularly of people of Tamil ethnicity, including foreign nationals. You should avoid wearing or carrying clothing or goods which are military or camouflaged in appearance. You should ensure that you carry some form of official identification with you at all times. If you are detained, you should ask the authorities to contact the British High Commission. You are strongly advised to comply with government and security force instructions.

There have been a number of “hartals” (widely enforced general strikes) and curfews in the north and east. You should avoid political gatherings or demonstrations. You should also avoid military bases and buildings, which have been the most frequent target of attacks.

Visitors should follow local news and maintain a high state of vigilance during such events.

Foreign nationals have been detained by the police after taking photographs of buildings or vehicles used by VIPs. Use of video and/or photography is prohibited near military bases and government buildings.
- Sri Lanka Guardian

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