IOM Director General and UNHCR High Commissioner Visit Refugee Camp in Western Ethiopia

IOM Director General William Lacy Swing, UNHCR High Commissioner António Guterres and Ethiopia’s Deputy Director for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) Ato Ayalew Awoke on Monday (16/7) visited Bambasi refugee camp in Ethiopia’s Benishangul Gumuz region.

The Director General and the High Commissioner urged the international community to extend its support to thousands of Sudanese refugees affected by the ongoing fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) in Sudan’s Blue Nile State.

“We are very pleased that Ethiopia has kept the border open. But this situation is serious and requires the continued attention of the international community,” said Ambassador Swing.

Echoing High Commissioner Guterres’ appeal for more support to provide the refugees with basic services, he stressed that the humanitarian community needs more international help “to engage much more resolutely.”

Bambasi camp, which was opened last month, is the third established in the region. It already houses over 8,000 refugees moved by IOM from the crowded Al Damazine transit camp near the Sudanese border as of July 2012.

IOM has also started work on constructing 420 shelters in Bambasi with funding provided by UNHCR.  The construction of the shelters is progressing and IOM plans to complete them within three months.

Since September 2011, IOM has provided emergency transport and pre-departure medical checks to over 27,000 Sudanese fleeing the violence in the Blue Nile State, working in close coordination with UNHCR and ARRA.

The influx is still continuing and in the first five months of 2012 alone, more than 9,500 refugees arrived in Benishangul Gumuz region. The first refugees were moved to Sherkole camp, but growing numbers forced the authorities to open a second camp - Tongo and Al Damazine Transit Camp – in October 2011. Bambasi followed in June 2012.