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UN refugees chief to visit Sudan Monday

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April 22, 2007 (KHARTOUM) — High Commissioner Antonio Guterres is scheduled to visit the Sudan this week. It will be his second visit to the country. His first was in August 2005.

Antonio Guterres

Guterres will arrive Monday in Khartoum, where he is scheduled to meet senior government officials, the UN Country Team and the Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General and UN Resident Coordinator.

UNHCR has been asked by the UN system to expand its operations for the internally displaced in Darfur and Mr. Guterres will be looking into this issue during his talks with Sudanese officials.

On Tuesday, he will travel to El Geneina in West Darfur, where he will visit internally displaced persons and meet with local authorities, African Union officials, UN partner agencies and NGOs. UNHCR is in charge of coordinating protection for about 700,000 IDPs in West Darfur. The Refugee agency currently has access to about 500,000 of them.

On Wednesday, the High Commissioner will meet with Chadian refugees who have fled to West Darfur. We estimate there are a total of 25,000 Chadian refugees now in West Darfur, most of them in areas adjacent to the border.

On Thursday, Guterres will proceed to Kassala State in eastern Sudan, where we have one of the most protracted refugee situations in the world. Refugee camps for Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees were established in East Sudan nearly 40 years ago — in 1968. He hopes to draw international attention to the forgotten situation of Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees.

East Sudan hosts a refugee population of approximately 136,000 refugees. In 2007 UNHCR started to shift its program from providing assistance to finding durable solutions.

UNHCR is currently working with its government counterparts to guarantee such solutions are found, with focus on local integration, increased self-reliance and facilitating resettlement for special cases. Voluntary repatriation is no option for the time being.

(ST)

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The Sudan Tribune editorial team.


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