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Violence and misery could spark new Darfur refugee exodus, says Lubbers


Violence and misery could spark new Darfur refugee exodus, says Lubbers

UNHCR chief Ruud Lubbers has warned the UN Security Council that unchecked violence and human rights abuse and the absence of aid workers in Sudan's Darfur region could lead to a further exodus of refugees into Chad. Meanwhile, UNHCR now has seven camps sheltering nearly 75,000 Darfur refugees.
21 May 2004
A Sudanese mother feeds her malnourished six-month-old with enriched milk in Tine, eastern Chad.

UNITED NATIONS, May 21 (UNHCR) - UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers has warned that the widespread violence and human rights abuse in western Sudan's Darfur situation could drive more refugees across the border into Chad, further exacerbating an already "appalling" humanitarian situation.

Addressing the 15 members of the UN Security Council on Thursday, Lubbers said that UNHCR and its humanitarian partners must be given access to the Darfur region to deliver aid and to help create conditions that could lead to the return of the some 1 to 2 million people who have been displaced by the fighting, many of them sheltered in makeshift camps. Some 120,000 others have fled into neighbouring Chad.

"If the situation does not improve, we will see further refugee flows into Chad," Lubbers warned the Security Council. "The international community may be quickly overwhelmed and there is the potential for destabilisation of the sub-region."

"The humanitarian situation is appalling on both sides of the border," Lubbers, who visited Chad in March, told the Security Council. "There are now strong indications that both Janjaweed militias and various groups associated with the Sudanese rebels are operating in these locations."

The Janjaweed are ethnic Arab paramilitary groups accused of attacking black African communities and who are said to have triggered widespread displacement throughout the vast Darfur region of western Sudan. UN officials have called it the "world's worst humanitarian emergency".

This week, UNHCR opened its seventh camp in eastern Chad to shelter refugees who have been relocated away from the border with Sudan. The new camp, at Breidjing, houses 187 refugees.

More than 75,000 refugees have found safety, assistance and shelter at the seven camps the agency has so far established inside Chad. Most have arrived at the new sites on UN relocation convoys carrying them inland from the insecure frontier zone, but some 10,000 made their own way to the camps after hearing that help was available away from the border.

Lubbers told the Security Council in his address that countries must act to better stem violence in regions at conflict and work to improve the security of both the victims of war and those aid workers struggling to provide assistance.

He said that many of today's conflicts involve heavily armed irregular troops and militias frequently criss-crossing borders, mixing amongst civilian population movements and even camping in and around refugee camps.

"Given the nature of conflicts today - greater attention must be devoted to finding a formula for peacekeeping missions to operate in cross-border conflict situations," Lubbers told the Security Council.

The High Commissioner also raised UNHCR's concerns regarding what he called the "inequity" of resources that are committed to Africa.

"While our emergency teams struggle to move tens of thousands of refugees from the border areas of Chad, this life-saving operation and the funds being sought to prepare the ground for eventual repatriation to [south] Sudan remain seriously underfunded."

The UN refugee agency has only received $13 million of the nearly $21 million it sought for the Chad emergency earlier this year, a figure that is now being revised upwards due to the continuing influx of refugees. With regards to south Sudan, despite launching an appeal last November for $8.8 million to begin planning and preparations for a south Sudan repatriation operation, it has only received $3 million.