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100s Sudanese flee upsurge of violence in Darfur

Hundreds of Sudanese flee upsurge of violence in Darfur: UN refugee agency

Almost 800 Sudanese have fled to eastern Chad since the start of the year to escape increased violence in the neighbouring West Darfur region of Sudan, the United Nations refugee agency said today.

Ron Redmond, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said the Sudanese are receiving help in Gaga camp, which currently holds around 6,600 people.

There are more than 200,000 refugees from strife-torn Darfur in camps in eastern Chad and Mr. Redmond said the security situation had deteriorated in West Darfur in recent months, involving both the Janjaweed militia and “a recent rise of tensions between Chad and Sudan.”

Gaga is the newest of 12 UNHCR camps in eastern Chad and many of the new arrivals say they travelled at night, riding donkeys to reach the camp, or else walked for days to find safety.

Mr. Redmond said that because of the worsening security situation in West Darfur, the Geneva-based agency had reduced the number of aid workers operating in the area and, as announced at the weekend, security concerns had also forced the UNHCR to reduce staff numbers in eastern Chad.

The weekend announcement came after unidentified armed men attacked the town of Guereda and abducted five government officials last Friday. While expressing concern for their safety, UNHCR calls for the immediate release of those detained, Mr. Redmond said today.

“We are assessing the security situation on a daily basis,” the spokesperson added.

Speaking to reporters in New York after briefing the Security Council, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres spoke of the gravity of the situation in the region.

“I do believe that the Sudan-Chad situation is the most challenging humanitarian problem we face today in the world,” said Mr. Guterres.

Meanwhile, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) today said security in West Darfur “in general remains tense and is a matter of concern for the UN and the humanitarian community.”

The UN is working with the African Union, which is also trying to bring peace to the troubled Darfur region, to relocate around 60 staff members of three non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in the area because of the security problems.

The UNMIS peacekeeping mission was deployed in the middle of 2004 with the aim of supporting a Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between the Government of Sudan and the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A).

Speaking yesterday, the UN special representative in Sudan called for the resumption of serious peace talks in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, between the Government of Sudan and its opponents in the western and eastern regions.

“Make it in February. Make it possible after the African Union summit to start talking again very seriously in Abuja. It is still possible,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan, Jan Pronk, told a news conference.

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