UNHCR concerned about thousands of refugees in South Sudan border areas

News Stories, 18 November 2011

© UNHCR/P.Rulashe
Sudanese refugees rest next to their UNHCR tent inside South Sudan.

GENEVA, November 18 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Friday expressed concern about the security of thousands of refugees in South Sudan border areas as fighting in neighbouring Sudan continues to drive civilians across the frontier.

"UNHCR is working to move these refugees away from the border and to safer areas of South Sudan because of concerns about security," the agency's chief spokesperson, Melissa Fleming, told journalists in Geneva.

In South Sudan's Unity state, between 60 and 200 Sudanese refugees have been arriving daily at Yida, in Pariang County after fleeing Sudan's Southern Kordofan state. This is despite last week's air strikes around Yida, where 23,000 people are sheltering mainly refugees, along with smaller numbers of internally displaced people and returnees.

UN agencies and NGOs continue to provide services in Yida, including food, water, sanitation, basic health care and special assistance to the most vulnerable refugees.

Since the influx started in August, UNHCR has been urging the residents of Yida camp to move further away from the unsafe border area, Fleming said. "We have prepared a site for them further south in Unity state, but the refugees are reluctant to move as they are worried about family members still in Southern Kordofan and prefer to stay closer to their homes," she explained.

UNHCR is ready to assist in moving refugees who are willing to relocate to areas considered safer from military activities as soon as roads affected by heavy rainfall become passable again. However, UNHCR's attempts to relocate refugees from Yida are being hampered because of the presence of landmines that have recently been found on roads in Unity state. "UNHCR appeals to all parties to respect the protection of civilians," Fleming said.

As well as the refugees in Unity, South Sudan is also seeing thousands of refugees crossing from Sudan's Blue Nile state. UNHCR is monitoring the situation at the border. Some 1,200 refugees are arriving every day, and between 5,000 and 7,000 refugees are believed be in the border area. UNHCR is also working to move these people.

The most vulnerable refugees are being relocated to a settlement in Doro near Bunj, the county capital, where UNHCR and partners are providing food, relief items and rapid health screening. More than 5,000 have been registered so far in the settlement. UNHCR is bringing in additional relief items to cope with the influx of refugees.

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