High Commissioner's mission to South Sudan and Sudan

Briefing Notes, 10 January 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 10 January 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, will wrap up his visit to South Sudan today and has called on the international community to provide massive humanitarian support for South Sudan, which faces multiple displacement crises.

After meeting Sudanese refugees in Doro camp in Mabaan region on Sunday, the High Commissioner warned that without international help it will not be possible to respond to the multiple crises and South Sudan could face a humanitarian disaster of enormous proportions. The vast majority of some 28,000 refugees in Doro camp are exhausted, hungry and vulnerable, women and children who walked several days to seek safety across the border. Most of the men have stayed behind to watch over their property.

Recent fighting in Sudan's Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states has forced more than 80,000 Sudanese refugees to flee across the border into Unity and Upper Nile States in South Sudan. Another 33,000 sought refuge in neighbouring Ethiopia.

A massive UNHCR humanitarian airlift flying in some 280 tons of aid into remote Malakal and Mabaan regions began on 20 December. Some 50,000 refugees will benefit from this assistance. So far we have completed 27 flights from our emergency stockpiles in Kenya and Dubai and have delivered 2,300 family tents, 16,000 kitchen sets, 36,000 blankets, 21,000 jerry cans, plastic sheets, sleeping mats, mosquito nets and other essential relief items. The airlift is ongoing and more assistance is needed.

In South Sudan, UNHCR is supporting the authorities to reintegrate some 660,000 returnees, including 360,000 South Sudanese who have come from Sudan and some 300,000 who have returned mostly from other neighbouring countries.

High Commissioner Guterres is scheduled to arrive in Khartoum later this afternoon. From there, he is scheduled to travel to Kassala in East Sudan, scene of one of the most protracted refugee situations in the world. Some 70,000 refugees mostly of Eritrean origin reside in 12 camps. Both refugees and the local host community face acute poverty, draught and risk of famine, lack of access to health and education. Guterres will discuss with the authorities programmes aimed at enhancing self-reliance.

In addition to the 70,000 refugees, there is a regular influx of some 1,700 asylum seekers per month to Sudan, mostly from Eritrea.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Khartoum, Sudan: Melissa Fleming on mobile +41 79 557 9122
  • In Khartoum, Sudan: Vivian Tan on mobile +249 912 307 489
  • In Geneva: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile: +41 79 249 3483
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UNHCR country pages

Repatriation

UNHCR works with the country of origin and host countries to help refugees return home.

Returnees in Myanmar

During the early 1990s, more than 250,000 Rohingya Muslims fled across the border into Bangladesh, citing human rights abuses by Myanmar's military government. In exile, refugees received shelter and assistance in 20 camps in the Cox's Bazaar region of Bangladesh. More than 230,000 of the Rohingya Muslims have returned since 1992, but about 22,000 still live in camps in Bangladesh. To promote stability in returnee communities in Myanmar and to help this group of re-integrate into their country, UNHCR and its partner agencies provide monitors to insure the protection and safety of the returnees as well as vocational training, income generation schemes, adult literacy programs and primary education.

Returnees in Myanmar

Battling the Elements in Chad

More than 180,000 Sudanese refugees have fled violence in Sudan's Darfur region, crossing the border to the remote desert of eastern Chad.

It is one of the most inhospitable environments UNHCR has ever had to work in. Vast distances, extremely poor road conditions, scorching daytime temperatures, sandstorms, the scarcity of vegetation and firewood, and severe shortages of drinkable water have been major challenges since the beginning of the operation. Now, heavy seasonal rains are falling, cutting off the few usable roads, flooding areas where refugees had set up makeshift shelters, and delaying the delivery of relief supplies.

Despite the enormous environmental challenges, UNHCR has so far managed to establish nine camps and relocate the vast majority of the refugees who are willing to move from the volatile border.

Battling the Elements in Chad

Southerners on the move before Sudanese vote

Ahead of South Sudan's landmark January 9, 2011 referendum on independence, tens of thousands of southern Sudanese in the North packed their belongings and made the long trek south. UNHCR set up way stations at key points along the route to provide food and shelter to the travellers during their arduous journey. Several reports of rapes and attacks on travellers reinforced the need for these reception centres, where women, children and people living with disabilities can spend the night. UNHCR has made contingency plans in the event of mass displacement after the vote, including the stockpiling of shelter and basic provisions for up to 50,000 people.

Southerners on the move before Sudanese vote

Ethiopia: Far From Home Play video

Ethiopia: Far From Home

Nyabuka Lam arrived in Pagak, Ethiopia in September after escaping armed men who shot her three children and husband back in her home country, South Sudan. After walking for 15 days to reach the safety of Pagak, she is now finally on a path to recovery.
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Canada: Light Years Ahead

With help from the Government of Canada, lives of refugees in Chad and Ethiopia have been transformed through the Light Years Ahead project.
Ethiopia: South Sudanese Refugee InfluxPlay video

Ethiopia: South Sudanese Refugee Influx

Despite a ceasefire agreement signed in early May, fighting continues between government and opposition forces in South Sudan. The renewed conflict has forced thousands of refugees to seek shelter in Ethiopia.