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IOM warns Sudan expulsions will affect Darfur aid

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) expressed regret on Thursday after Sudan moved to expel two of the agency’s officials from Darfur, warning it would hurt its relief work in the region.

Khartoum ordered Laura Palatini and Carla Martinez to leave the country in the wake of an International Criminal Court decision to charge Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir with genocide over the conflict in Darfur.

“No explanation has been given as to why this decision was taken,” the IOM said in a statement. “IOM regrets this development, which will seriously impact on its capacity to continue its humanitarian work in Darfur.”

Martinez, a Spaniard, is the IOM’s director in the war-torn western region. Palatini, an Italian, head’s the organisation’s office in South Darfur state, aid officials said.

They had been working on the protection of and provision of aid to internally displaced people, returnees and other conflict-affected people.

An unnamed aid official earlier told Agence France-Presse that Sudanese officials had handed letters to the pair on Wednesday ordering them to leave the country within 72 hours.

There was no immediate explanation from Sudanese authorities for the expulsion orders but the letters came just two days after the ICC levelled the additional genocide charge against al-Bashir.

The IOM has the mandate in Darfur to oversee the return of hundreds of thousands displaced by the region’s seven-year conflict, many of whom sought refuge in huge tent cities where they were prey to rape and other abuses.

The IOM’s work also includes the transportation of non-food relief items and assistance for UN agencies and other aid groups.

Darfur, an arid region the size of France, has been gripped by civil war since ethnic minority rebels rose up in 2003. The conflict has killed 300 000 people and left 2,7-million homeless, according to UN figures.

Khartoum says 10 000 people have perished. — Sapa-AFP

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