19 October 2013

Sudan: EU Ambassador Calls for Immediate Relocation of Yida Refugees

Juba — A European Union delegation made an official visit to Unity state on Friday as part of a fact-finding mission to assess the needs and conditions of refugees in the area.

The diplomatic mission, headed by the ambassador to South Sudan, also held discussion with local officials on general development challenges facing the region.

Huge numbers of Sudanese refugees continue to cross into Unity state as a dispute between the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) and the Sudanese government intensifies in South Kordofan and Blue Nile state.

Special envoy to South Sudan Sven Kuhn Burgsdorff says the visit was specifically to determine the status of Sudanese refugees.

EU diplomats also held dialogue between Unity state caretaker governor Joseph Nguen Monytuel as part of their assessment, which also included a visit to Ajuongthok camp, a proposed new relocation site for refugees currently based at the Yida camp.

Burgsdorff said security reasons were behind the need to move refugees from Yida camp.

"The [Ajuongthok] camp could be opened so that the stranded in Yida can come to a safer location. All the services they need can be provided here: education, health and other services; the international community is ready to do that", said Burgsdorff.

He said the Yida camp is too close to the border and demilitarised areas, posing a security risk to refugees settling in the zone.

He said the proposed new site was well away from demilitarised zones and provided a safe alternative.

However, he said authorities and aid agencies must ensure the camp has adequate services to support refugee settlement, adding that the move should not come at the expense of people losing their livelihoods.

Monytuel says his government had agreed on a number of key points with the EU team, including prioritising security and development issues that affect the livelihood of both the local community and refugees in the area.

"We had a meeting [with the] ambassador [and the] delegation that came from Juba, we talked on the issues that are related to the refugees and the developmental issues that are related to the state in terms of infrastructure, in terms of security, in terms of provision of basic services to the community and we all agree on how best we can address these issues", said Monytuel, without elaborating further.

The governor said the team had also discussed with him about reopening the border in order to help stem the current economic crises gripping the state.

The governments of Sudan and South Sudan have pledged to reopen their border areas in order to allow the flow of cross-border trade, which is seen as a key measure to help address ongoing economic instability affecting both countries.

However, both Sudan and South Sudan have yet to implement the agreement and negotiations have stalled.

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