International Officials Look Into Relocation of Displaced People in Darfur
An intergovernmental organization says it is looking into what it calls the forced relocation of displaced people in the war-torn Darfur region of western Sudan. The Sudanese government has denied any wrongdoing in the relocation.
The International Organization for Migration is investigating the circumstances under which several thousand residents of camps in Nyala, south Darfur were transferred to different locations by Sudanese troops earlier this week.
The International Organization for Migration, which works closely with the United Nations, wants to determine if the Sudanese government has been abiding by the terms of an earlier agreement on how to deal with internally displaced people in Darfur.
The head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Khartoum, Ramesh Rajasingham, explains.
"According to the agreement that we have with the government here that has been signed between the International Organization of Migration and the government of Sudan, the authorities have to inform IOM of any voluntary movement of IDPs so that IOM can then go and view their specific criteria that they have established to determine whether the IDPs have moved voluntarily or not," he said. "This did not take place."
Mr. Rajasingham said many displaced people reported that they were moved involuntarily. He said it is against international law for displaced people to be transferred to different locations against their will.
"We are also very concerned that the IDPs, who already suffered more than enough, are then put under increasing pressure not of their own will," he said. "They are traumatized and in addition to that they now have to go through this forced move."
The spokesman for Sudan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Ahmed Abdel Ghassar, told VOA there was only one location where people were transferred out of.
He said the settlement was not a camp for internally displaced people set up by the government or the International Organization for Migration, but was actually a group of 154 squatter families who were living illegally on private land.
"Of course, the owners, the landlords of this land came and requested that this is their land and they have to get it back," he said. "And the authorities tried to convince them that they can be moved to another place, especially [since] the place where they have been was not good, it was not healthy, and they accepted."
Mr. Ghassar said the residents moved voluntarily, but when they got to the new location, they started rioting and were stopped by Sudanese security forces.
He said the Sudanese government is also investigating the situation.