New York, US (PANA) - UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Friday that aerial bombings in Sudan’s Blue Nile state were driving a new wave of refugees into Ethiopia, with nearly 2,000 arriving in the last four days alone.
According to UNHCR, "The new arrivals at the border area of Kurmuk, one of several refugee entry points into Ethiopia and considered to be the busiest, are mostly women, children and the elderly.
"They tell us they fled bombings and fear of bombings by Antonov planes in areas
including Bau, Sali and Dinduro, all located between Kurmuk and the Blue Nile capital,
Damazine,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said in a statement.
The statement, which was made available to PANA in New York, quoted Edwards as saying that, "there are also reports that armed militia on the Sudanese side of the Kurmuk border have warned the community to leave the area, possibly in preparation for a ground offensive."
It said UNHCR estimated that 28,700 refugees have fled Blue Nile state since the fighting began in early September between the Sudanese army and rebels with the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N).
"Given the current situation in Blue Nile, more refugees are expected to arrive in Ethiopia,'' the agency said.
It also said that, "the refugees are being encouraged to relocate from the border area to Tongo camp, about 200 kilometres from Kurmuk. Others are at the Sherkole camp, or among host communities near the border."
The statement noted that UNHCR was working with the Ethiopian authorities to expand Tongo camp in anticipation of a further influx, adding that, "with ongoing construction Tongo will be able to host some 7,000 refugees. Along with its governmental partners, it is also exploring the feasibility of additional camp sites."
The agency further urged the international community to step up their response to this "growing" crisis and in particular to support its US$10 million appeal to meet the urgent needs of the refugees and to support Ethiopia, which was already hosting more than 174,000 Somali refugees.
-0- PANA AA/BOS 28Oct2011