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Ethiopia sees a surge of Sudan’s Blue Nile refugees in April - UN

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By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

May 1, 2012 (ADDIS ABABA) - The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Tuesday that the fighting in Sudan’s Blue Nile state has continued to drive more refugees flee to neighbouring Ethiopia.

UNHCR and the Ethiopian government have registered 29,494 Sudanese refugees in two camps (Tongo, Sherkole) and at a transit centre between June 2011 and 21 April 2012.

The UNHCR branch office in Addis Ababa told Sudan Tribune that Ethiopia has seen a surge in the number of new arrivals starting from the last week of March as fighting between Sudanese forces and the rebel Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) continue to displace civilians, mostly women and children.

April, however, has recorded further larger number of new arrivals in to border areas in Ethiopia, according to the UNHCR representative in Addis Ababa.

“In first three weeks of April (1-21), 2012, some 2,376 new arrivals were registered, compared to about 800 registered in March” Natalia Prokopchuk, UNHCR’s Public Information Officer, told Sudan Tribune.

Despite the continued hostility in the troubled region, the Sudanese government claim that thousands of refugees have managed to return home from Ethiopia.

Last week, the Sudanese Media Center (SMC), which is widely believed to be run by the security services, reported that some 2,820 Blue Nile state refugees had returned home from Ethiopia after the governor of the state, Al Hadi Bushara visited Ethiopia where he consulted on ways of coordinating the return of Sudanese refugees to their original areas.

While there can be cases of spontaneous returns; however Prokopchuk said UNHCR doesn’t facilitate any voluntary repatriation to Blue Nile state refugees at this moment.

(ST)

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