South Asia

Sri Lanka eases travel restrictions for foreigners

lanka

Foreign passport holders will now be allowed to freely visit northern Sri Lanka, officials say, much of which was severely affected by the civil war.

Until now journalists and foreign nationals needed permission from the defence ministry, even though the conflict ended two years ago.

But permission is still needed for NGOs that want to work there.

In 2009 the army defeated Tamil Tiger rebels who had fought for 26 years for a separate homeland in the north.

The director general of the government media centre for national security, Lakshman Hulugalle, told the BBC's Sinhala service that restrictions imposed for travelling to the north for journalists were withdrawn at the end of May.

"The defence ministry has decided to remove similar restrictions on everybody from today [Monday]," he said.

Mr Hulugalle, however, added that international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) will only be allowed to travel to the north but not to engage in any activity.

"If they want to work there, they still need to get the clearance from the president's office," he said.

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