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Hundreds swamp IDP camp amid fighting, eviction in Darfur

Hundreds swamp IDP camp amid fighting, eviction in Darfur

More than 100 Sudanese have arrived in Kalma camp for internally displaced persons after fleeing recent fighting in their villages in South Darfur. Another group of some 1,500 have arrived at the same camp after being evicted from makeshift sites by government troops.
6 July 2004

NYALA, Sudan, July 6 (UNHCR) - Hundreds of Sudanese civilians have arrived at a camp in western Sudan in recent days amid continued fighting and evictions from makeshift sites in the troubled Darfur region. Aid agencies are struggling to assist these desperate populations.

Despite a ceasefire agreement signed in April between the Sudanese government and two rebel groups, fighting continues to uproot civilians in Darfur.

In South Darfur, more than 100 people have arrived at Kalma camp near the provincial capital of Nyala in recent days. The new arrivals travelled through heavy fighting on foot and on commercial flatbed trucks after government and janjaweed militia reportedly attacked their rebel-dominated villages south-east of Nyala last week.

"The displaced people tell a tale that has become familiar in 16 months of fighting," said UNHCR spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis at a news briefing in Geneva Tuesday. "They say their villages were bombed by Antonov aircraft and helicopter gunships. After that, they tell us, armed men in pickup trucks and on horseback and camelback killed men, women and children, raped women, stole their possessions and animals, and burned down their homes."

A separate group of some 1,500 people arrived at Kalma camp after government police and soldiers evicted them from a makeshift camp late last week, saying they were squatting illegally on private land next to the road to the Nyala airport.

"We are concerned about reports that some women were beaten to force them to move, their makeshift shelters were destroyed and the site today is an empty field strewn with discarded plastic bags," said Pagonis.

With the recent arrivals, Kalma camp now hosts at least 40,000 people, including many severely malnourished babies. International aid agencies are struggling to provide food, water and medical care.

In West Darfur, UNHCR is working with the government to ensure that any movement of displaced persons is fully voluntary. Many people are living on spontaneous, unorganized sites that the government wants them to vacate. UNHCR and other agencies have been asked to help evaluate sites for formal camps for them.

Meanwhile, in West Darfur's capital of El Geneina, the refugee agency has met with leaders of an estimated 3,500 Chadian refugees who said they have also been hit by violence in the region and need UNHCR help to return to Chad.

Because of the situation in Darfur, UNHCR plans to help the Chadians go home under an emergency evacuation instead of going through the usual repatriation procedures. These refugees had fled Chad in the 1980s and now want to return to Abéché in eastern Chad, a region where UNHCR is hosting more than 118,000 Darfur refugees in eight camps.