Sri Lanka lifts international travel ban amid war crimes allegations

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All scheduled flights to and from Sri Lanka from India, Bangladesh and Nepal have resumed with minimal disruption following the ban by Sri Lanka’s president on all international travellers between December 2017 and February 2018.

President Maithripala Sirisena had suspended operations from his country following allegations of human rights violations and war crimes by troops in an unsuccessful attempt to win support in the island’s bitterly divided politics.

The foreign ministry said Sunday that all international flights had resumed and flights from different destinations had been increased, with all scheduled flights to and from India, Bangladesh and Nepal scheduled to operate the same day as earlier.

“It is an important day for all Sri Lankans as the VVIP level travel ban has been lifted,” it said.

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Officials from the health ministry inspected the airport and ferry terminals to ensure measures were being implemented to ensure that all the foreign visitors would travel safely.

Many of the flights were cancelled or rescheduled following the ban. Many travellers spent months in different countries, apart from island-nation India, because they could not afford the towing and public transportation they were forced to use to cross the ocean by sea.

The sudden detention of thousands of migrants in Bangladeshi fishing boats near the shores of Indian Ocean island began on 17 December 2017 amid claims by human rights groups that Lankan soldiers had killed ethnic Tamil civilians.

Dhaka and Colombo have denied the charges, but the issue resulted in India, Bangladesh and Nepal suspending flights between those countries.

Sirisena appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was ousted in 2015, a minister in his cabinet despite acknowledging the allegations made by the UN’s human rights chief in November 2016 that Sri Lanka had killed as many as 40,000 civilians, most of them Tamils, and forcibly disappeared others at the end of a long civil war.

However, Rajapaksa’s political fortunes rose and, despite the ban, went on to win elections in August 2018.

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