Juba — The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has called for immediate relocation of nearly 63,000 Sudanese refugees currently living in South Sudan's Unity state, due to insecurity concerns along its border with Sudan's South Kordodan state.
While speaking at a briefing in Geneva on Friday, Adrian Edwards, the spokesperson for the High Commissioner for Refugees said the agency was currently assessing several alternative sites, with a view to relocating people as soon as rainy season conditions allowed.
"Yesterday [Thursday], UNHCR and the peacekeeping mission, UNMISS [UN Mission in South Sudan] undertook a joint mission by helicopter to explore the suitability and accessibility of potential relocation sites offered by the South Sudan government," he said.
Edwards, in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune, said UNHCR was in daily contact with the government regarding the relocation of refugees, and that agency's technical experts due in the area next week to design new sites.
However, in addition to the plan to relocate those currently in Yida, the new sites will reportedly be designed in anticipation of possible new refugee inflows from into South Sudan, once the rainy season ends.
Also of concern, Edwards said, is the safety of refugees Yida camp, given its close proximity to the border and "recurrent presence of armed personnel in and around the settlement."
"Right now, the safety of the refugees and the civilian character of the settlement cannot be guaranteed. UNHCR had regularly reported incidents of armed elements being seen to the South Sudan authorities," he said.
With nearly 70 per cent of the refugees in Yida said to be below 18, UNHCR and partners have reportedly established seven child protection committees with the refugee community.
An estimated 520,000 people, according to a recent UN report, have been displaced or severely affected by conflict in South Kordofan besides some 205,000 refugees from South Kordofan and Blue Nile, who are now in South Sudan and Ethiopia.
Meanwhile, the refugee agency says it urgently needs an additional $20m before January next year, to deal with an expected influx of between 30,000-40,000 people into South Sudan from neighboring Sudan.
The current funding situation, according to UNHCR, made it incredibly difficult for it to address even the most urgent needs of some 175,000 refugees in Unity and Upper Nile states in South Sudan. This year, the agency says it received only 40 percent of its revised appeal, which covered $186 million.