January 13, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese refugees commissioner, Hamad El-Gizouli, has rejected figures on the number of South Sudanese refugees provided by the United Nations agency for refugees (UNHCR) saying they are unreliable.
- Thousands of refugees fleeing violence in South Sudan have crossed into neighbouring countries, including Uganda and Sudan (AP)
The official was reacting to a statement by UNHCR external relations officer Nicolas Brass who estimated that at least 10,000 South Sudanese refugees have arrived in Sudan since the start of fighting in the neighboring country last December.
El-Gizouli said in a talk show program at the pro-government Ashorooq TV on Sunday that the number of South Sudanese refuges in the country did not exceed 1,371 individuals, adding that the estimates produced by the UN "is incorrect".
He emphasized that UNHCR agreed to offer shelter materials to southern refugees in Sudan and pointed that refugees phenomenon is an old one, adding that Sudan dealt with refugees since the 1960’s.
El-Gizouli stressed that Sudan adopted an open door policy towards refugees and dealt with them in accordance with international laws and conventions and Islamic Sharia’a law.
“Sudanese people provide security and shelter to refugees and they have four-decades of experience in dealing with them”, he said.
The commissioner did warn however, that some refugees groups carry diseases and bring traditions and customs which have negative effects, pointing that several international organizations provided valuable services to refugees through Sudan’s Commission on Refugees (CoR).
He added that majority of refugees in Sudan come from Eritrea, Ethiopia, and recently Somalia, pointing out that the Sudanese parliament recently ratified an asylum law which included 33 provisions on refugee rights and voluntary return.
El-Gizouli also said that according to the new law, domestic workers are considered immigrants not refugees, pointing that those workers should produce identity cards.
“Employers will be punished if they hire refugees without identity cards”, he added
He said that Sudan is currently a home for 75,000 refugees living in seven refugee camps besides those who reside outside major cities, adding they embarked on a project to registerthe latter.
The commissioner asserted that each refugee undergoes medical tests once he or she crosses the border, pointing that HIV/AIDS patients are voluntarily tested and referred to the concerned organizations if they tested positive.
The head of Sudan’s Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC), Suleiman Abdel-Rahman, disclosed in the same TV program they set up committees to coordinate with authorities of border states with South Sudan, saying that committees receive refugees and register them according to the rules.
“We called upon local humanitarian groups and international partners to provide assistance in accordance with the directives of humanitarian work”, he added
The head of parliamentary subcommittee on foreign affairs, security, and defense, Mohamed Al-Hassan Al-Amin, for his part said the law defines a refugee as someone who arrived in Sudan due to compelling circumstances and presented himself to authorities.
“Those who enter the country through borders are dealt with according to procedures and they are considered aliens”, he added
He pointed to the phenomenon of harboring aliens and said the law defines it as a crime, stressing that new refugee act provided for penalties against human trafficking particularly moving persons outside refugee camps.
“The new law provides for the importance of counting foreign presence in the country and everybody is obligated to define himself through aliens identification cards”, he added.