Sudan

High Commissioner completes mission to Sudan

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This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler - to whom quoted text may be attributed - at the press briefing, on 27 April 2007, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

High Commissioner António Guterres concluded yesterday (Thursday) his four-day mission to Sudan. After Khartoum and Darfur earlier this week, he travelled on Thursday to Kassala State, eastern Sudan, to see for himself one of the most forgotten refugee situations in the world. Eastern Sudan hosts about 136,000 refugees from Eritrea and Ethiopia, and small numbers of Eritreans are still arriving to the camps regularly. UNHCR's first refugee camp in eastern Sudan was established in 1968.

Addressing local authorities and government representatives in Kassala, Guterres stressed that, while the international community has focused on Darfur and South Sudan, not enough attention has been paid to the refugees in the East. He also emphasized that people often forget that Sudan has been very generous in hosting these refugees for the past 40 years.

While visiting Wad Sherif and Kilo 26 refugee camps, respectively hosting 33,000 and 12,500 refugees, he was shocked by the poor conditions in which they live, without adequate water supplies, limited access to health services, poor sanitation and malnourishment, among other problems. Guterres expressed deep concern about this situation.

Addressing the refugee community, which had gathered to welcome him, Guterres said that UNHCR is committed to do more for them, in spite of our limited resources. He called upon the international community to fulfil its responsibilities.

High Commissioner Guterres also promised that UNHCR will devote more financial resources to improve the refugees' living conditions.

With this trip to eastern Sudan, High Commissioner Guterres concluded a four-day visit to Sudan, in which he agreed with the Sudanese government to upgrade UNHCR's operation in West Darfur. We plan to scale up protection and camp management to support internally displaced people in West Darfur. There are more than 700,000 internally displaced persons in West Darfur, out of a total of 2 million for the whole of Darfur.

In Khartoum, while meeting with senior Government officials, Guterres also drew attention to the fact that, in the first four months of 2007, we have repatriated and assisted, through our voluntary repatriation operation, over 55,000 Sudanese refugees from neighbouring countries to South Sudan. Another 137,000 have come back by their own means, while over 300,000 still remain in exile in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Egypt.