Expulsion of aid chiefs hurts Sudanese

2010-07-16 22:36

Brussels - The European Union expressed regret on Friday over the expulsion ordered against two top aid officials in Darfur and urged Sudan to protect humanitarian groups in the strife-torn region.

"This unfortunate decision will penalise the Sudanese people in the first place," said European humanitarian aid commissioner Kristalina Georgieva.

"Humanitarian aid is provided solely on the basis of people's needs, independently from any political consideration," she said.

"We call upon the government to support and protect the work of humanitarian organisations in Darfur."

The two officials from the International Organisation for Migration received orders on Wednesday to leave Sudan within 72 hours, aid workers said.

The expulsion order came two days after the International Criminal Court charged President Omar al-Bashir with genocide over the Darfur conflict.

The IOM officials are Laura Martinez, a Spaniard, the organisation's director in the war-torn western region, and Carla Palatini, an Italian who heads its office in South Darfur state, aid officials said.

The IOM's projects in Sudan are funded by Australia, Canada, Japan, the Netherlands and the United States as well as the European Commission, the EU's executive arm.

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

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.