UNHCR calls for open borders for possible South Sudan refugee outflows

Juba, July 12 (IANS) The UN High Commissioner for Refugees on Tuesday appealed to armed parties in South Sudan to ensure safe passage for people fleeing the fighting that erupted late last week in Juba.

The UN refugee agency in a statement called on the rival troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar to keep borders open to people fleeing and seeking asylum in the neighbouring countries, Xinhua news agency reported.

UNHCR said some borders have been affected such as the Uganda-South Sudan crossing, where security is tightened on the South Sudan side.

“This has led to a significant decrease in the number of new arrivals coming into Uganda over the weekend,” it said.

Just 95 people crossed on Saturday, dropping to 36 on Sunday, compared with a daily average of more than 200 for July, noting that it expects a higher level of new arrivals once the border reopens.

“Those that have managed to cross have reported indiscriminate attacks against civilians, with buses from Juba to the Uganda border being stopped and robbed,” said the statement.

In western Ethiopia’s Gambella region, UNHCR has stepped up border monitoring with Ethiopia’s refugee commission. Emergency preparedness is in progress in Kenya, Sudan and other neighbouring countries in case of a major influx.

The agency said there has not been any big influx at the Kenya-South Sudan border, though over the weekend UNHCR received 36 individuals from Eastern Equatoria state.

UNHCR like the UN Security Council condemn the violence in Juba but welcome efforts by the two sides to implement a ceasefire and hope this holds.

“Our office in Juba reports a tense calm overnight with no reports of more population displacement,” said the statement.

The fighting displaced some 36,000 people, according to UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Inside South Sudan, some 7,000 internally displaced people have sought shelter in the UN’s bases in Juba.

UNHCR is also worried about the situation of some 9,000 urban refugees, who have told the agency about their security concerns as well as difficulties in getting food and water.

The refugee agency noted that the other refugee-hosting sites across South Sudan are reported to be calm.

President Kiir and Vice President Machar on Monday evening ordered ceasefire respectively after days of heavy fighting between their forces in Juba.

–IANS

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