"We have seen conditions people are living in after their village was levelled, and we stress the government's responsibilities for its own citizens," Wendy Chamberlin, acting UNHCR head, was quoted as saying in a statement released on Tuesday during her visit to Sudan.
Referring to the Shikan squatter camp, where about 30,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the south lived until December 2004 - when the government evicted them and demolished the camp - she said: "The standards for displaced people are the same as for refugees. They can only go home voluntarily, and must do so in safety and dignity."
UNHCR has estimated there to be 6.1 million IDPs in Sudan [approximately 4 million from the south and two million from Darfur]. An additional 500,000 refugees live in other countries - primarily Uganda, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
However, many from the south are expected to return home following a peace agreement on 9 January between the Sudanese government and the southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army.
Chamberlin also drew attention to the plight of IDPs from Darfur. According to UNHCR’s statement, she was told by women at the El Hamadya IDP camp in Darfur that they were too frightened to go home, and did not even feel safe inside the camp.
"This is why we've just opened an office here in Zalingi, to find a way to make it safe in the camp," Chamberlin was quoted as saying.
El Hamadya is one of four camps in Zalingi, in the state of West Darfur, that together house nearly 63,000 displaced people, many more than the Zalingi town's original population of about 16,000.
The women reportedly said they had been chased from their villages by Janjawid militia, and armed men had even come into the camp in the middle of the night to steal their belongings.
Meanwhile, the Australian government approved the deployment of 15 Australian defence personnel to the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) for an initial period of 12 months, Australia’s defence minister, Robert Hill, announced on Wednesday.
"ADF [Australian Defence Force] personnel will make a positive contribution to improve stability and peace in Sudan, and more widely in Africa, through their participation in the UNMIS peacekeeping force," Hill said in a statement.
"The contribution will include air movements, logistic support and military observers, and will deploy when called forward by the United Nations," he added.
On 15 April, Australia’s foreign minister, Alexander Downer, announced a donation of US $10 million in humanitarian relief for Sudan, bringing the total official Australian humanitarian emergency assistance to more than $40 million in the past 12 months.
Representatives of more than 60 countries and international organisations met in Oslo on 11 and 12 April to discuss the implementation of the southern peace deal, and pledged more than $4.5 billion dollars for Sudan for 2005-2007.
Odd Naustdal, information officer for the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told IRIN on Wednesday the donors included the US with $1.7 billion; the EU with $765 million; the UK, $545 million; Norway, $250 million; the Netherlands, $220 million; the League of Arab States, $200 million; Germany, $161 million; Sweden, $110 million; Japan, $100 million; and Denmark, $90 million.