(AFP) The Sudanese army and police have surrounded several refugee camps in the war-torn region of Darfur and denied access to humanitarian groups, the United Nations said Tuesday.
“It started at 3 a.m. without any warning,” said Christiane Berthiaume, spokeswoman for the World Food Program. “Agencies have been denied access to these camps since this morning.”
At least 160,000 refugees in western Darfur cannot be reached by road “because of insecurity,” Berthiaume said.
The U.N. food agency has relocated a total of 88 aid workers from three camps in the Nyala region: Golu, Zalingie and Nertetie. Most of those evacuated are working for independent aid organizations rather than the United Nations, Berthiaume said.
The agency still has three employees in Zalingie and Nertetie, but may evacuate them depending “on the evolution of the situation,” Berthiaume said.
WFP is concerned that government forces may start relocating people in the camps back to their villages, where there is less protection from government-backed militias known as Janjaweed, she added.
Refugees fear the move may be government retaliation for the kidnapping of 18 Sudanese of Arab origin, who were taken hostage while traveling on a bus between Zalingie and Nyala last week, WFP said.
Sudan’s government is accused of backing the Janjaweed to help put down a 19-month rebellion by non-Arab African groups. The United Nations and aid groups have previously called Darfur the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.