Deputy High Commissioner in Sudan's Darfur region
Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees L. Craig Johnstone is in Darfur today as part of a four-day mission to Sudan to review UNHCR's operations for refugees and internally displaced persons. He arrived in El Geneina, West Darfur, yesterday afternoon following a day of meetings in Khartoum with Sudanese officials. Today, he is scheduled to visit IDP camps in West Darfur.
Earlier in Khartoum, Johnstone discussed with senior Sudanese officials the case of the attempted removal of 103 children from Chad to France by an NGO and roundly condemned the action, saying it was against humanitarian principles and international norms. Johnstone, in a meeting with Sudan's Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Hassabo Mohamed Abdel Rahman, discussed UNHCR's role in helping the Chadian authorities identify the children and trace their families. Johnstone and Abdel Rahman told media they hoped a thorough investigation into the attempt to remove the children from Chad would bring to light the full facts of this disturbing incident. They also expressed the hope that the children could be promptly reunified with their families.
The Deputy High Commissioner also expressed cautious optimism following his Khartoum meetings that UNHCR could in the near future extend its activities to North and South Darfur. In West Darfur, in a difficult security environment, UNHCR concentrates on providing protection assistance to some of the more than 700,000 internally displaced people.
Johnstone travels on Saturday to Abéché in eastern Chad, where UNHCR cares for some 240,000 refugees from Darfur in 12 camps and provides assistance to some of the 180,000 Chadians internally displaced by conflict and insecurity. He will also discuss with UNHCR staff and partners some of the lessons learned from the Zoe's Ark incident and how to promote respect for international laws on the protection of children.