The ethnic-minority Tamils are being held against their will. More than half were released in recent months amid pressure from rights groups and foreign governments. Authorities say nearly 136,000 people remain detained in the camps, which are guarded by soldiers and strung with barbed wire.
Basil Rajapakse, a senior adviser to his brother, President Mahinda Rajapakse, said yesterday the refugees will be free to return to their villages after December 1, and the camps will be completely closed by January 31.
The announcement came two days after the UN humanitarian chief, John Holmes, pressed Sri Lanka to allow the war refugees to leave.
Rights groups say the detention is an illegal form of collective punishment for the ethnic group. Access to the camps is heavily restricted.
The government has maintained that Tamils must be screened for rebel ties and detainees' villages de-mined before the camps can be closed.