Geneva, Switzerland, May 5 (EFE).- The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Friday urged countries neighboring Sudan to keep their borders open to refugees and migrants fleeing the nation that has been plunged into a violent crisis amid a military power struggle in recent weeks.
In the first three weeks since the conflict broke out, 113,000 Sudanese have fled the country, the majority arriving in Chad – mainly from Darfur – or attempting to enter Egypt, mostly from the capital city Khartoum.
Faced with the “fluid and uncertain” situation in Sudan, “UNHCR calls on all countries to allow civilians of all nationalities fleeing Sudan non-discriminatory access to their territories,” the body said in a statement.
“The principle of non-refoulement should be respected at all times,” the statement added, referring to a fundamental principle of international law forbidding countries taking in asylum seekers to return them to a country where they would likely be in danger or face persecution.
UNHCR is stepping up its support to Sudan’s neighboring countries as they prepare “for larger numbers of arrivals,” the statement said.
UNHCR Director of International Protection Elizabeth Tan told reporters in Geneva of the situation at the border with Egypt, where “there is a buildup of people who are trying to cross.”
“They are using regular immigration processes that are not able to handle the numbers that are waiting to cross at the moment. We hear that it takes four or five days even for people to clear the immigration process,” Tan said.
UNICEF’s James Elder also told the press briefing that 190 children were among the at least 550 fatalities during the first 11 days of the conflict, while at least 1,700 children have been injured.
“On average (…) over the first 11 days of this fighting, seven children have been killed, every hour,” Elder said, warning that the true toll is “likely to be much worse” as the agency’s figures only correspond to those with access to health facilities. EFE