Lubbers outlines expanded protection role for UNHCR in Darfur
UN refugee agency chief Ruud Lubbers has met with the Sudanese government to discuss an expanded protection role for UNHCR in Darfur. This includes setting up mechanisms for uprooted people in the strife-torn region to report violations and seek redress.
KHARTOUM, Sudan, Sept 29 (UNHCR) - UN refugee agency chief Ruud Lubbers has outlined plans for an expanded UNHCR role to help uprooted people in the Darfur region, announcing it at the end of his five-day mission to Chad and Sudan.
On Tuesday, the High Commissioner met with the Sudanese Vice-President, Ustaz Ali Osman Taha; the State Minister of Internal Affairs, Dr. Ahmad Alaas; the State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Najeeb Al Kheir; and the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Ibrahim Mahmoud, in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
Speaking at a press conference afterwards, Lubbers reiterated the need for "zero violence" in western Sudan's Darfur region.
He reported that the Sudanese officials were open to UNHCR's expanded protection role in Darfur, and that the Vice-President requested that the refugee agency ensure the civilian nature of camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs). One minister had told Lubbers that 190,000 people have already returned to Darfur's villages, and the Vice-President asked UNHCR to verify the voluntary nature of these returns because some people did not believe the government's information.
The High Commissioner also noted that he had held discussions with African Union monitors in West Darfur's El Geneina provincial capital and agreed that the role of the AU is not only to monitor the ceasefire but also to build trust and confidence among the population.
"UNHCR will certainly work together in tandem with the AU," said Lubbers, noting that UN human rights officials were on the ground to report on human rights violations.
"UNHCR's role is somewhat different," said Lubbers. "Firstly, it is important for us to create a situation where citizens who have been offended against have an opportunity to report and see that action is taken on these violations."
More specifically, he added, if there are women who want to go on the record with complaints, it might be useful to have small teams composed of women, not as part of a normal police force but as a separate unit, to see that something is done about these complaints.
UNHCR will also develop community service centres based on the needs of these IDPs, where they can talk about their problems.
Tuesday's press conference marked the end of a five-day mission by High Commissioner Lubbers and a high-level donor delegation from the United States, Japan, Germany and the European Union, to assess the living conditions of Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad and the situation of IDPs in Darfur.
On his second mission to Chad in six months, Lubbers met Chadian Prime Minister Moussa Faki in N'Djamena and spoke with Sudanese refugee leaders in Iridimi camp. In Darfur, he visited three camps for internally displaced persons that are not run by UNHCR.
An estimated 1.4 million people have been forced from their homes by militia attacks in Darfur, while close to 190,000 have crossed the border into Chad, where UNHCR and its partners are assisting them in 10 camps.