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Hundreds of Darfur refugees arrive in Ghana

4/15/2005 8:44pm

By Kwaku Sakyi-Addo

ACCRA, April 14 (Reuters) - Nearly 400 refugees from Sudan's Darfur region have reached the West African country of Ghana, travelling thousands of kilometres to seek asylum in the home country of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

"We've already processed about 200 of them and they've got refugee status now. They're in a settlement in the western region (of Ghana)," Jane Muigai, protection officer for the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, told Reuters.

Tens of thousands have been killed in Darfur and more than 2 million people have fled their homes since rebels took up arms in 2003, accusing Khartoum of giving preference to Arab tribes.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees fled west into neighbouring Chad, an impoverished, landlocked nation where resources are stretched, despite an influx of aid.

"We see that there're more of them arriving since February. Sometimes they tell us they've come here because it's Kofi Annan's country," Muigai said. "We've rejected a few applications, but most of them proved to have a genuine story."

From the eastern Chadian border town of Adre to Ghana's capital Accra is 2,625 km (1,640 miles) in a straight line, cutting across Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin and Togo.

Police in the capital of Ghana on Wednesday rounded up 180 Sudanese asylum seekers who were living on a horse-racing course and dropped them off in an unfinished building in the city to await immigration formalities.

"I myself came here by road through Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin and Togo," said Adam Abdelrahmin, 24.

"Sometimes I travelled on foot and sometimes by truck. I was travelling alone and when I arrived here UNHCR told me where I could find some people from Darfur," he told Reuters.

Baba Bawumia, secretary to the Ghana Refugee Board, said: "Our resources are stretched thin right now, so we're trying to get help from the international community to settle them."

The UNHCR's Muigai said she feared more Darfur refugees would arrive in Ghana in the coming weeks, despite a huge humanitarian assistance programme in Chad.

Refugees were initially welcomed in Chad by villagers who are often from the same ethnic group, but tensions have risen as locals vie with them for scarce resources in a barren landscape.

"I'm from Darfur, and I've come to Ghana because here you can sleep outside or go anywhere and nobody will ask anything," said Mohammed Tamumi, a 30-year-old farmer from Nyala.

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