Hoyer, Feingold Petition President Bush on Humanitarian Crisis in Darfur

Call on President to Send Clear Message to Sudan That They Must Ensure Continued Humanitarian Access

WASHINGTON - House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) and Senator Russell D. Feingold (D-WI) sent a letter to President Bush yesterday, urging him to deliver a strong message to the Sudanese government that they are expected to follow through on all agreements regarding continued humanitarian access to the more than two million Darfurians who depend on international relief groups for survival. This letter follows a CODEL to Darfur that Majority Leader Hoyer recently led, during which the Leader experienced first-hand how internally displaced Darfurians rely on these groups for basic services such as medical care, food delivery, education, and water and sanitation. The Majority Leader has written to the Sudanese Foreign Ministry on this issue as well.

"By sending this letter to President Bush, we hope to increase pressure on the Sudanese government to abide by the agreements they have signed," Majority Leader Hoyer said. "After recently leading a CODEL to Darfur, I believe more than ever that humanitarian organizations are doing vital work that must not be impeded by the government of Sudan. The United States, and the international community, must do everything possible to ensure continued humanitarian access to the people of Darfur."

"While I am somewhat encouraged by the Sudanese government's agreement to support humanitarian efforts in Darfur, this pledge must be implemented completely and fully if it is to be at all useful to the millions of people who rely on humanitarian assistance for survival," said Feingold, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs. "The U.S. Administration must hold the Sudanese government accountable for their commitments and make it absolutely clear that obstruction of humanitarian aid will not be tolerated."

The letter was signed by 20 Senators in addition to Senator Feingold, and 37 Representatives in addition to Majority Leader Hoyer. All 11 Members on the Hoyer CODEL to Darfur - including seven Democrats and four Republicans—signed the letter.

Even though the government of Sudan signed the Joint Communiqué with the UN on March 28, humanitarian organizations are still experiencing problems with delays in receiving and renewing travel visas and work permits. Creating further confusion, some Sudanese government agencies adhere to the Communiqué's requirements that all visas and work permits be extended, and applications for new visas and permits be approved within 15 days, while others do not. Additionally, the Sudanese Department of Labor has "attempted to interfere in humanitarian groups' hiring processes," by refusing work permits for aid workers.

In the letter, Members ask President Bush to use "all possible tools of leverage" at his disposal to compel the Sudanese government to ensure that humanitarian workers have access to Darfurians, and to comply with the Joint Communiqué and their other international agreements.

A PDF of the letter can be viewed by clicking here.

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