Displaced people living in squalid shelters on the fringes of an official displacement camp in Sudan’s North Darfur region lack relief services as the official camp is full. Efforts by a visiting British official this week to persuade local authorities to open a new site to accommodate the overflow of Al Salaam camp near El Fasher, capital of North Dafur state, failed.
Dozens of displaced families said they came here about 14 months ago from villages in North Darfur, fleeing renewed fighting in the region, but were not allowed to settle in the Al Salam camp proper, which already hosts 50,000 IDPs.
Humanitarian officials in the camp said it had reached its maximum capacity and could not accommodate the new arrivals, who have been reluctant to go to other sites. The additional internally displaced people (IDPs) are not entitled to the same assistance as other Al Salam residents.
New site “not logical”
Aid workers said an extra site for new arrivals could be set up, but the local authorities strongly oppose the proposal.
During a visit this week, British Secretary of State for International Development Douglas Alexander raised the possibility of opening a new camp during a meeting with the governor of North Darfur State, Osman Youssef Kibir.
However, the governor, claiming an improvement in security, told Alexander “we want to see the camps close and the people return to their villages. These people were not displaced by recent fighting as they claim.”
“They moved to Al Salam from Zamzam [another IDP camp on the outskirts of El Fashir] because of administrative problems caused by some international NGOs interested in a new camp,” the governor alleged. “There is no justification, logic or reason to open a new camp,” he continued.
Kibir added that “the logical thing to do is to figure out how to get the IDPs to return to their homes”.
Alexander, however, felt the security concerns of the IDPs were real. “These people are living in genuine fear and I understand the concern that they must feel given the continuing security incidents that are taking place in the environs of this camp and more broadly across Darfur,” Alexander said.
“Obviously there is continuing violence here in Darfur,” he added, pointing out that humanitarian efforst could only do so much. “I have also been left with a very clear sense that the humanitarian effort, important as it is, is not itself sufficient,” he said. “We need to have security here on the ground in Darfur that requires both the international force … but also clear action by the government of Sudan.”
Camp resident Abubakar Osman Abdullah agreed.
“Security, particularly outside the camps, is very bad and that is one of the reasons why nobody wants to leave,” he said.
Sudan last month gave the green light for the deployment of a joint United Nations-African Union force of more than 20,000 troops and police to take over from an under-funded and ill-equipped AU force.
The hybrid force is not expected to be in place until next year.