Immediate Action Needed in Escalating Sudanese Refugee Crisis

Empty tents in Nyeel refugee camp, South Sudan, April 2012. Photo by Pete Muller
Press Release
June 6, 2012

Immediate Action Needed in Escalating Sudanese Refugee Crisis

United Nations Security Council Must Act as Bombings and Food Shortages Continue

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @strimel

(New York) -- Amnesty International said today the United Nations Security Council must urgently protect civilians in Sudan and take immediate action to halt the military’s indiscriminate airstrikes that are driving tens of thousands of people into refugee camps. A new report, We Can Run Away from Bombs, but Not from Hunger: Sudan’s Refugees in South Sudan, highlights the need for humanitarian aid organizations to be granted immediate access to conflict-affected areas in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

Tens of thousands of refugees have fled to neighboring South Sudan, where they face further risk of human rights abuses and a lack of food, water and adequate shelter. The situation could deteriorate to crisis levels if humanitarian access is not granted, as the region’s yearly rainy season has already arrived.

The United Nations must accelerate efforts to send aid supplies, to strengthen education programs and ensure measures are in place to protect women and girls in the refugee camps, Amnesty International said.

Since violence broke out in the two states a year ago, more than half a million people have been driven from their homes by indiscriminate airstrikes by the Sudanese Armed Forces.Severe food shortages are being compounded by the Sudanese authorities’ refusal to allow independent humanitarian assistance into the areas.

"Thousands upon thousands of people have been forced from their homes by indiscriminate aerial bombardment. Now, food and water to help these displaced people are running out, threatening their lives," said Scott Edwards, Amnesty International USA advocacy director for Africa in Washington D.C. "The United Nations can't stand by and allow this crisis to get out of hand. Life-saving humanitarian aid must be sent to those in need. It's time for the Security Council -- especially China and Russia -- to meet its obligation to the people of the two Sudans."

Amnesty International visited eight refugee camps in South Sudan in March and April, where they found evidence of people being forcibly recruited into armed groups and sexual violence, in addition to food and water shortages.

The report details how some refugees at the Yida refugee camp in Unity State have waited almost 10 hours to receive one container of water or three weeks to access food rations.

Amnesty International found that a large percentage of the refugees are children without parents who fled the violence to continue their education, only to find that school facilities are struggling to operate in some camps and are virtually non-existent in others.

In refugee camps in Upper Nile State, the organization received reports of boys and young men being forcefully recruited into the armed opposition group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North.

Girls and young women at theYida camp, many of whom arrived there on their own, spoke frankly about their fear of rape and sexual violence.

Halima Ahmed who was sheltering in Yida camp told Amnesty International:"At night we are always afraid. Men and boys often come around and harass us. Sometimes the police chase them away. One time, in the middle of the night, a man made it into our room."

Despite the risks, Amnesty International’s research found that those living in the camps have few alternatives.

"So long as the violence from the Sudanese Armed forces continues, refugees have nowhere to go but these camps which face serious challenges in safety and access to food and water," Edwards said. "Around 50,000 refugees have arrived in the past six weeks alone and more are reported to be on their way as the rainy season sets in."

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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