UN relief chief concerned over physical condition of Sri Lankans trapped by

The world body estimates that some 200,000 people are being squeezed into a narrow 14-square kilometre patch of land on the coast in Vanni which the Government has declared a ‘no-fire zone.’Many of these people have been uprooted several times in recent months or years, and are in danger of getting caught in the crossfire between the two sides, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes, who visited Sri Lanka last week, told the Security Council in a closed meeting today.“And there is strong evidence that the LTTE are preventing them from leaving,” he cautioned.The violence has impeded humanitarian aid delivery, with supplies of food, medical supplies, clean water and other essential supplies in critically short supply.“The risks from hunger and diseases are growing rapidly, in addition to those from fighting,” noted Mr. Holmes, who also serves as UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.He told the 15-member Council of his visits to camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), adding that movement into and out of these sites is “currently highly and unacceptably restricted.”With reports of the LTTE shooting some civilians trying to flee the Vanni pocket, Mr. Holmes said he called on the rebel group to allow people to leave and stop forced recruitment, especially of children.He said he also called on the Government to do all they can to allow civilians to get out of the area safely through such measures as a halt to fighting or the creation of a humanitarian corridor.“I trust that my pleas to all parties to do all they can to protect civilians and respect international humanitarian law will not fall on deaf ears,” Mr. Holmes said. “The continuing close attention of the international community will be a very important part of this, including scrutiny of the implementation of the assurances given by the Government.”He also appealed to “those with any influence on the positions of the LTTE” to persuade the rebels to let civilians go.“There is no time to lose,” the Under-Secretary-General stressed.Addressing reporters following the closed-door meeting, Ambassador Yukio Takasu of Japan, which holds the monthly rotating Council presidency, said that there was a convergence of views among members that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Mr. Holmes continue to be engaged on the issue.In a related development, a recently-opened sea route has allowed the World Food Programme (WFP) to deliver 40 metric tons of the agency’s food – enough to feed 80,000 people for a day – to the Government-designated safe zone in the Vanni region.Sailing under an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) flag, the supplies in the tugboat reached the area yesterday, with another shipment planned for tomorrow.WFP now aims to deliver up to 300 metric tons of food supplies weekly by sea.Since last September, the agency had been bringing food to the Vanni region by road convoys, but was forced in January to halt its deliveries due to the escalating hostilities.WFP food has been reaching some 40,000 displaced people seeking refuge in Government-controlled areas in the north, with 145 metric tons of food having been supplied to 11 camps.Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency today urged the Government to exercise caution and the LTTE to allow civilians to move to safe areas.The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has received 300 acres of land from the Sri Lankan Government and seeks to set up a camp for 42,000 people by the end of the week. But given the large number of people trapped by fighting, the agency has asked for an additional 300 acres to shelter 85,000 civilians in all. 27 February 2009The top United Nations humanitarian official today voiced concern for the hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans pushed into a progressively shrinking pocket of land in the northern part of the country due to clashes between Government forces and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). read more

Honda increases UK production and announces 700 new jobs

Honda chose press day at the Paris Motor Show to announce its continued commitment to the Swindon plant and to British manufacturing. The factory already employs 4,200 employees and bringing a further 700 new workers to the operation, will allow Honda to achieve its full production potential, increasing production to a quarter of a million units by the end of 2007. Following recent other UK investment announcements by BMW and Nissan, this is further recognition and reward for the efficiency and quality of British car workers. Honda will produce 190,000 cars in the UK in 2006. The extra production volume is required to meet the unprecedented European demand for the all new Civic 5 door and 3 door models, exclusively built in Swindon. In the first eight months of 2006, Honda Motor Europe has sold more Civics than in the whole of 2005, a 30% uplift. In addition, the all new Honda CR-V, which makes its world debut at the Paris Motor Show, will be built in Swindon and will go on sale from January 2007. Speaking to media at the Paris Motor Show, Takeo Fukui, President and CEO of Honda Motor Co., Ltd. said, ‘We plan to increase output of both the CR-V and the Civic in our Swindon, UK plant from next spring, taking Swindon up to its full capacity of 250,000 units on a yearly basis, within 2007’ Announcing the increase at Honda Swindon, Dave Hodgetts, Director of Planning and Administration at Honda of the UK Manufacturing Ltd commented: ‘This next phase of development for Honda is a massive vote of confidence in all our Associates working at the Swindon Plant and clearly demonstrates Honda’s long-term commitment to the region and to British manufacturing’ Recruitment will start immediately and whilst the majority of roles are in Production, there are also employment opportunities for Purchasing Specialists and Maintenance Engineers. Honda celebrated 20 years of its Swindon operation earlier this year and is able to achieve this next phase of development with increased efficiency and without the need for any further investment in plant infrastructure to the £1.33 billion already invested by Honda.Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) read more