UNHCR appeals to Sudan government to renew work permits for its international staff in Darfur

Briefing Notes, 6 August 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 6 August 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is calling on the Government of Sudan to renew the work permits for all our international staff based in Darfur so as to enable us to fully resume protection and assistance to hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians in need.

Of the 37 UNHCR international staff based in Darfur, only 17 currently have valid permits to continue their work. Permits in the other twenty cases have not been renewed, despite extended follow-up by UNHCR with the relevant Government authorities, forcing us to scale down our operations.

This has particularly affected UNHCR's work in North Darfur. None of the UNHCR international staff based in El Fasher have been granted permits to return, with the last remaining staff having been asked to leave at short notice in early July. The result is that for over a month, UNHCR has been unable to effectively undertake protection and assistance activities for IDPs in North Darfur.

The humanitarian situation in Darfur remains critical both for long-term IDPs and for those who have been newly displaced as a result of recent fighting. The inability of UNHCR to continue implementing its activities will directly impact projects related to health, education, basic services and livelihoods, the provision of emergency shelter and non-food items, and on the verification of returnees.

There are currently some two million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Darfur, of whom 1.2 million live in camps. There have been almost 300,000 new IDPs this year alone, including a third of them within and from North Darfur.

In addition to providing emergency relief items to the newly displaced, UNHCR supports durable solutions for the displaced in close collaboration with government and other humanitarian partners.

We have recently distributed relief items such as sleeping mats, blankets, mosquito nets, jerry cans, plastic sheeting and kitchen utensils to some 75,000 new IDPs in North Darfur, 140,000 in South and East Darfur and 15,000 in West and Central Darfur.

UNHCR also regularly undertakes return verification missions across the five States in Darfur. To date, UNHCR has verified a total of some 280,000 IDP and refugee returns to Darfur since 1 January 2011.

There are also some 34,000 refugees in region, mainly in West Darfur, who are not impacted by the non-renewal of work permits.

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