April 3, 2014 (KHARTOUM) - The United Nations office in Sudan has disclosed disagreement between the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Sudanese government on the description of the South Sudanese citizens who fled to Sudan due to the ongoing conflict in the newborn state.
- South Sudanese refugees cook on an open fire at a camp run by the Sudanese Red Crescent Society in the western part of White Nile state, Sudan, on January 27, 2014 (Photo AFP/Ashraf Shazly)
Khartoum since the start of South Sudanese crisis last December refuses to describe them as refugees saying they will be considered as Sudanese citizens and are free to settle where they want, but at the same time it refuses to establish refugees camps near the border fearing that rebels seek refuges there.
UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator, Ali Al-Za’atari, warned in a press conference on Wednesday against a catastrophe in the event that the number of South Sudanese citizens living on the borders reaches 150.000 people.
He stressed in a press conference in Khartoum on Wednesday that the number of South Sudanese who fled to Sudanese territory is between 27.000 to 50.000 people, saying the Sudanese government refuses to describe the southerners as refugees while demanding humanitarian assistance for them.
"How can we offer them assistance if they are not refugees", he said.
He asserted that a refugee is defined by certain criteria, saying the Sudanese government can deal with them as brothers but we consider them refugees.
Al-Za’atari underscored that Khartoum must look at this issue in a logical and objective way particularly as the two sides are bound by international laws and regulations in this regard, saying description of the fleeing southerners as refugees would enable them to secure the necessary funding from donors.
"We currently help the southerners from the fund which must be allocated to Sudanese areas", he added.
Al-Za’atari further said they requested $48 million to meet requirements of South Sudanese fleeing to Sudan, pointing the hosting country and the UNHCR must issue a joint appeal in order to get that fund.
He however disclosed that a committee was formed in order to settle the dispute between the Sudanese government and the UNHCR.
Meanwhile, the Sudanese government maintained its sovereign right to not consider the southerners who live within its territory as refugees.
Sudan’s humanitarian aid commissioner, Suleiman Abdel-Rahman, for his part said the hosting country has the legal right to grant the description of a refugee or offer full citizenship status.
He stressed the Sudanese president Omer Al-Bashir directed the concerned bodies to treat South Sudanese fleeing the ongoing conflict as Sudanese citizens, not refugees, stressing the presidential directive could be reviewed if the number of southerners increased significantly.