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Sudanese refugees in Niger protest against bad living conditions

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Sudanese refugees in Niger hold a sit-in outside UNHCR office in Agadez - Niger on 23 December 2019 (ST Photo)

December 23, 2019 (KHARTOUM) - A group of Sudanese refugees said they are staging a sit-in outside the UN refugees agency HCR in Agadez, central Niger to protest the living conditions and bad mismanagement by the international officials.

Fleeing violence in Libya two years ago, over a thousand of Sudanese almost from Darfur region are pinned down in an isolated camp outside Agadez at the southern edge of the desert, 740 km northeast of Niamey, the capital of Niger.

Many of them sought refuge and protection in Niger after being kidnapped, tortured and raped by armed gangs in the lawless north Africans country after Ghadaffi’s ouster.

On 16 December, they left their camp 15 km from Agadez town and camped outside the UNHCR office to protest the bad living conditions saying that their situation is “deplorable and unfit for humans”.

As they are now entering the second week, they told Sudan Tribune that they have no intention to regain their camp.

They say that the tents, which are not adapted with climatic conditions in Africa, are designed to retain heat and highly inflammable. Also, they pointed to the lack of health care and medical treatment as some of them are traumatized and suffer from mental health issues.

The UNHCR officials were not available fo comment on the situation but aid workers in the region admit the difficult situation the Sudanese refugees are experiencing.

The Sudanese refugees say the UNHCR asks them to return to their camp first after what they can work with them to resolve their problems.

"They do not give us anything no food and no water and there are several pregnant women with us but they act as we are not outside their office," Isam Zain al-Abdin told Sudan Tribune

Zain al-Abdin further denied claims by HCR officials that they demand to be transported to Europe.

"We have very clear demands consisting of living in decent conditions and to provide us refugees cards," he said.

"If we were seeking to go to Europe we would not come to Niger. We came here seeking protection as refugees and this is why we want the UNHCR to deliver us the refugee cards," he stressed.

He and other refugees some of them requested anonymity spoke extensively about the negligence of the UN workers and lack of skill to deal with their problems.

Also, some of them said they feel they as they are "persona non grata" by the local authority saying they consider them as "rebels".

Nigerien authorities did not intervene to tackle the situation as the protesters continue their sit-in peacefully outside the UNHCR office in Agadez.

Niger hosts mainly Malian and Nigerian refugees who fled the civil war for the former and attacks by the terrorist group Boko Haram for the latter. Recently a limited number of Burkinabe refugee arrived in the country as a result of terrorist attacks.

Also, the increase of violence in the border areas with Mali and Burkina Faso displaced over thousands of civilians.

UNHCR and WFP provide assistance based on capacities and vulnerabilities rather than status, said the UN refugee agency in a recent report.

(ST)

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