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Last updateSam, 24 Jan 2015 10pm

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UN advises against forced returns to Sudan Sudan

NewYork, US - The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) on Friday warned against the return of 130,000 South Sudanese who have fled to neighbouring countries due to the continued violence despite last month's ceasefire accord between te government and opposition forces.

The UNHCR said it was recommending that States refrained from returning South Sudanese to the country unless cases involved people who may have committed serious human right violations.

The agency's, spokesperson, Ms. Melissa Fleming, who spoke with reporters, said: 'UNHCR's advisory against forced returns to South Sudan remains in effect until security, rule of law and the human rights conditions improve enough to allow for safe and dignified returns.'

She said that advisory was issued on Thursday.

Ms. Fleming said that in light of continuing violence, people fleeing South Sudan were likely to meet the criteria for refugee status under international and regional conventions.

She also hailed the decision of most regional governments to recognize them as refugees on a 'prima facie basis'.

'The refugees have fled primarily to Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda, and UNHCR welcomes the generous response of these countries and their cooperation with the agency and its humanitarian partners,' she said.

The spokesperson also called on other countries to do the same and facilitate access for aid.

Some 75,250 people displaced are seeking refuge in or around UN bases in South Sudan.

On a related issue, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), whose authorized strength the UN Security Council doubled to nearly 14,000 uniformed personnel when the crisis erupted, is warning against the recruitment of child soldiers, and has intensified its monitoring of the occurrence throughout the country.

The Mission also said that overcrowding of protection of civilian sites in the country was a major challenge for the UN and the humanitarian community.

UN spokesperson, Mr. Martin Nesirky, said: 'With the rainy season approaching, there is great concern that these sites will become breeding grounds for disease outbreaks and epidemics.'

To address this, the Government of South Sudan has accepted a Chinese donation to build a new protection of civilians site in Juba, adjacent to the UN House, Mr. Nesirky told UN reporters in New York.

He added that construction, with the assistance of UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), had already begun and was expected to be completed before the start of the rainy season.

He disclosed that the emergency funding from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) had been made available for this project.

Additionally, the UN House, which hosts some 15,000 civilians, will also be expanded.

Overall, UNMISS is protecting approximately 75,000 civilians in a number of bases around the country.

Thousands of people are believed to have been killed and some 870,000 others have been driven from their homes, 738,000 of them internally displaced, since fighting broke out on 15 December between the forces of President Salva Kiir and deputy president Riek Machar.

Talks are currently underway in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, led by the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

Pana 15/02/2014