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UN Official Calls for Stronger Refugee Protection

Visiting Chad, Top UN Relief Official Calls for Stronger Refugee Protection

John Holmes, USG for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Relief Coordinator

24 November 2008 – The top United Nations humanitarian official wrapped up a four-day visit to Chad today during which he called for stronger action to restore stability and rein in criminal activity besetting nearly half a million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the strife-torn east.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes travelled to the east, where 300,000 refugees from Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region and the Central African Republic (CAR) have been joined by some 180,000 IDPs uprooted by rebel activity and a spill-over of the Darfur conflict.

Touring a refugee camp in Farchana, a site for IDPs in Gassire and a village of returned IDPs in Louboutigue, he noted that the very volatile security situation, including insecurity caused by criminality, restricted humanitarian space, thus affecting aid operations, and he stressed the urgent need for closer cooperation between the Government and international institutions to counter this.

Mr. Holmes – who serves as UN Emergency Relief Coordinator – also noted the deployment of the Integrated Detachment for Safety (DIS)), a unit of Chadian police and gendarmes being trained under a UN programme to ensure the protection of refugees and IDPs in and around the camps in the east.

“I hope that this deployment of the DIS and the current consultations for the replacement of European Union Force (EUFOR) in March 2009 by a United Nations force will help improve the security situation in the east of Chad, even if many challenges remain to be addressed,” he said.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has proposed sending 6,000 troops to replace the 3,000-strong EUFOR, which currently works with the UN Mission in CAR and Chad (MINURCAT).

Mr. Holmes expressed his gratitude to donors who have provided $242 million for the humanitarian appeal for Chad – 77 per cent of the required funding. But he noted that mine action, water and sanitation, education and early recovery remain somewhat under-funded.

The Under-Secretary-General, who met with Prime Minister Youssouf Saleh Abbas, other senior officials and members of the diplomatic corps and humanitarian community in N’Djamena, welcomed recent progress in relations between Chad and Sudan, including the exchange of ambassadors earlier this month. But he noted that Sudanese refugees will return to their country only once the crisis there is solved.

It is thus extremely important that political efforts continue, he said, before leaving for an official visit to Sudan.

ENDS

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