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UN Refugee Chief Warns of Escalating Sudan Crisis and Human Trafficking Threats

UN High Commissioner warns of escalating refugee crisis in Sudan

Estimates may be conservative

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said on Monday that estimates that up to a million people may have fled Sudan by October may be conservative, adding that the conflict threatens to increase human trafficking and the proliferation of weapons in a fragile region.

Over 350,000 already fled

More than 350,000 people have already fled across the Sudanese border since fighting broke out between the army and rapid support forces on April 15, most of them heading to Egypt, Chad and South Sudan.

Internal displacement

More than a million people have been internally displaced in Sudan, which has an estimated population of 49 million, as fierce fighting erupted in residential areas of the capital, Khartoum, and violence has also spread to the Darfur region in west of the country.

High numbers in the next few months

Grandi said in an interview with “Reuters” news agency in Cairo after a visit to the border with Sudan, that the Commission predicted that some 800,000 Sudanese and 200,000 people of other nationalities would leave Sudan in a period of six months.

He added, “This expectation, that we’re going to hit these high numbers in the next few months, is probably conservative … At first I didn’t think it was going to happen, but now I’m starting to worry.”

Fertile ground for human trafficking and violence

Countries bordering Sudan include South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia and Libya, all of which have been affected by internal conflicts in recent times. Grandi claimed the collapse of law and order in Sudan and “many rushing out” would provide fertile ground for human trafficking, while cross-border weapons could threaten further violence.

He added: “We’ve seen it in Libya with the Sahel region. We don’t want to repeat it, because this will multiply the crisis and the humanitarian problems”.

Donor pledge conference urgently needed

The United Nations appealed to donors for $470 million for its biannual refugee response to the Sudan crisis, an amount Grandi said only 1 percent had been pumped in, adding there was an “urgent need of a donor pledge conference. He also believed that the international community, concerned about the Ukraine issue, is not paying enough attention to Sudan.

Warning of destabilization

And he added: “It is clearly felt that there is a very dangerous difference, as this crisis can destabilize the entire region and beyond, as much as Ukraine in Europe”.

Aid delivery and presence in Wadi Halfa

Grandi said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is trying to establish a presence in Wadi Halfa in northern Sudan, where many male Sudanese aged between 16 and 50 are waiting to apply for visas to enter in Egypt, but not sure of the timing. It is stated that women, children or the elderly do not need to obtain a visa.

He also made it clear that aid must be delivered in a buffer zone between the Egyptian and Sudanese border posts, where those fleeing will wait for long periods.

Over 160,000 moved to Egypt

Since the beginning of the conflict, some 160,000 people have moved from Sudan to Egypt, which is already home to a large Sudanese community.

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