Sudanese refugees at risk in unsafe border areas-UN
Publisher: Reuters News Agency
Story date: 20/11/2011
Language: English

GENEVA, Nov 18 (Reuters) – Landmines and heavy rains are hampering plans to move Sudanese refugees deeper into South Sudan and away from the volatile border area where they are at risk, the United Nations said on Friday.

Up to 200 refugees fleeing fighting in Southern Kordofan state still arrive each day in Unity State, despite air strikes by the Khartoum government's forces around Yida refugee camp in Unity, the U.N. refugee agency said. The camp is now home to 23,000 people.

"UNHCR is working to move these refugees away from the border area and to safer areas of South Sudan because of really serious concerns about security," Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a briefing.

Newly-laid landmines in the area, where rebel groups are active, are hampering aid operations, she said.

"They are laid along the very roads we would need to transport refugees along to locate them further within Unity State, which we believe would be much safer," Fleming said.

Border violence has raised tension between the old civil war foes, with each nation regularly accusing the other of supporting insurgencies in its neighbour's territory since South Sudan's secession in July. Unresolved issues include how much South Sudan should pay to use Sudan's oil pipelines and facilities.

The United Nations said last week that Sudanese military aircraft had bombed Yida refugee camp in South Sudan, and called for an investigation into the attack. Khartoum has denied the allegations.

Refugees are also crossing from Sudan's flashpoint Blue Nile state, home to many supporters of the south's dominant Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), into South Sudan, according to the UNHCR.

"We are seeing quite a large daily influx of some 1,200 refugees arriving every day and between 5,000 and 7,000 refugees are believed to be in the border area," Fleming said.

The agency was working to move them to safer locations.

In all, an estimated 350,000 Sudanese have crossed into South Sudan since the independence, she added.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)

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