Sudan + 1 more

U.N. says to check on 45,000 Chadians in Darfur

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By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, May 11 (Reuters) - Sudan has asked a United Nations team to travel to its troubled Darfur region to evaluate the status and needs of 45,000 men, women and children who have crossed over from Chad, the U.N. refugee agency said on Friday.

The Chadians, who have crossed the border in the last three months, appear to be mainly Arab nomads. It was not clear whether they were refugees fleeing conflict in Chad or had just crossed the border, UNHCR spokeswoman Helene Caux said.

"The Sudanese government has asked us to provide assistance. An assessment mission of different U.N. agencies is trying to go at the weekend," Caux said in Geneva.

"At this point we don't know who they are and we need more information -- are they refugees or nomads, have some been fighters in Chad? We have to determine their status."

Sudanese authorities have told the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that the Chadians have gathered at the border near Foro Baranga, in West Darfur, according to Caux.

Kingsley Amaning, U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Chad, said he was not aware of the exodus but said there seemed to be fewer Arabs in eastern Chad, where the number of displaced Chadians has tripled to 150,000 since November.

"We have seen less Arab communities and even less Arab wounded. It is amazing, we don't see Arab displacement on the Chad side," Amaning told Reuters. "I wouldn't be surprised to find out they were on the other side (in Darfur)."

Chad has repeatedly accused Sudan of backing rebels and of supporting attacks in Chad by Janjaweed militia based in Darfur. The Sudanese government calls the Janjaweed outlaws and says it has no ties to them.

"WARS BY PROXY"

Sudan and Chad signed a reconciliation deal last week and pledged to cooperate with the United Nations to stabilise the vast Darfur region and the neighbouring areas of Chad, which has taken in some 210,000 Sudanese refugees who fled Darfur.

The U.N. says some 200,000 people have died and more than 2 million have fled their homes since the Darfur conflict flared in 2003 when rebels took up arms against the government, accusing it of neglect. Sudan says only 9,000 have perished.

Amaning noted the accord was the latest in a long series and said concrete results were needed to restore security.

"Up to now we haven't had direct military confrontation between the two countries. I would hasten to add that...wars by proxy are equally destructive," he told a news briefing.

Amaning was in Geneva to appeal to donors for an additional $23 million for Chad due to growing violence and number of displaced, whom he predicted could rise to 200,000 by year-end.

This brought the U.N. humanitarian appeal for Chad this year to $196 million, of which nearly $74 million has been received.

Aid operations were costly because food had to be brought from Europe to Libyan ports and across deserts to Chad where armed groups often attacked convoys, according to the envoy.

"If we're not able to provide assistance within the next few months, the rains will set in and we will lose access. God knows what will happen to them when they are out of sight," he said.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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