Refugee Forum Repeats Call to UNHCR To Heed to Plight of Eritrean Refugees

ELF-RC Information and Culture Office

The chairman of the Eritrean Refugee Forum, Mr. Hamid Dalashai, once again urged the UNHCR to respond to the basic demands of the growing number of Eritrean refugees in the Sudan. He also wished that UNHCR will consider immediately rescinding its wrong 2002 decision of applying the so-called ‘Cessation Clause’ on Eritreans, thus lifting recognition of refugee status to them.

Speaking to the ELF-RC Information and Culture Office in Khartoum the other day, Mr. Dalashai reported that a delegation of the Forum from the refugee camps of Wed-Sherifey, Kheshmel-Girba and the three camps of Shegerab on 16 March 2006 met with the Sudanese deputy commissioner for refugees to protest about the total interruption  at the refugee camps of the minimum facilities that existed until recently. He said that the camps are without basic relief supplies, water and sanitation services and elementary education support. The delegation of the Forum was referred to meet officials of the UNHCR in Khartoum, who are responsible for refugee matters. Mr. Dalashai added with frustration that, based on past experiences, “the likelihood of an audience with UNHCR is almost unlikely. We will be exhausted of waiting and then return to our camps without meeting this UNHCR people”.

Mr. Dalashai informed that 11,000 registered fresh arrivals were accounted in the Sudan recently and that an average of  20 refugees per day are crossing the border from Eritrea  these days. The old refugee case-load still in the Sudan is estimated to be well over 400,000. Mr. Dalashai expressed deep disappointment with  UNHCR’s failure to fully understand the situation of Eritreans who could not go home because of the political environment in ‘independent’ Eritrea which did not welcome the old refugee case-loads. He said that the regime in Eritrea is still producing large flows of fresh refugees because of its repressive measures and that the UN refugee agency failed to appreciate this clearly visible situation on the ground.

Mr. Dalashai admitted that some Eritrean refugees in the refugee camps in Eastern Sudan did until recently receive assistance but he stressed that what they used to receive was a quarter of what they used to receive at normal times. He gave the following estimates of poor Eritrean refugees many of whom receive partial assistance (quarter of their needs) from humanitarian agencies:

Wed-Sherifey              =          30,000 refugees

Shegerab (3 camps)     =          30,000 refugees

‘Killo 26’ camp              =          13,000 refugees

Um Gurgur                   =          12,000 refugees

Kheshmal Girba             =          11,000 refugees

Abuda                         =            5,000 refugees

Wedel-Hilew                 =            4,000 refugees

Um Ali                         =            3,000 refugees

The Eritrean Refugee Forum was established in 1997 and claims to be representing all Eritrean refugees in the Sudan. It has been submitting protest letters to UN agencies in the past and intends to intensify the campaign for the recognition of the status of ‘refugees’ for Eritreans which the UNHCR has wrongly denied them. The Forum is intending to hold its second congress this year.

It is to be noted that the new refugees in the Sudan have recently formed their own association to promote their special needs that include third-country asylum. Mr. Dalashai’s Forum is trying to approach the new association of freshly arriving refugees to unify the two bodies for effective campaign for world attention to the plight of Eritreans who fled their homeland or could not return to it because of serious political problems.

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