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Acting High Commissioner in Sudan

Briefing notes

Acting High Commissioner in Sudan

19 April 2005

The Acting High Commissioner for Refugees, Ms. Wendy Chamberlin, has started a five-day visit to Sudan and Chad by calling on the Sudanese government to live up to its responsibilities to protect its own citizens and to help Sudanese displaced by civil war to return to their homes in the south of the country.

After visiting two sites where people displaced by the 21-year civil war live on the outskirts of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, Ms. Chamberlin said UNHCR and the international community will hold the Sudanese government responsible for protecting its own people and helping them go back to their original homes, if that is what they want. She stressed that the same principles apply to people displaced within their own country as to the return of refugees - that their movements must be voluntary and carried out in safety and dignity.

An estimated 6.1 million people who fled the civil war in the south are now displaced within Sudan. This is in addition to the 500,000 refugees in other countries - primarily Uganda, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo - whom we plan to help return home over the next few years. The January signing of a peace deal ending the civil war has paved the way for both refugees and displaced people to go back to their homes.

Women from the southern Nuba Mountains - who have been living for the past 17 years in a camp on the outskirts of Khartoum - told Ms. Chamberlin of their worries about going home: the expensive bus fare back to the south, the fact that their children would not have as good schools as in Khartoum, and fears that they would not find land on which to farm.

Today (Tuesday), Ms. Chamberlin travels to Nyala in South Darfur, where she will visit some of the nearly 2 million people displaced by the separate Darfur conflict, on top of those displaced by the civil war in the south. There she plans to stress UNHCR's role in protecting displaced people, especially in counselling and helping women victims of rape. Later this week, she plans to cross the border into Chad, where we are taking care of some 200,000 Darfur refugees.