GENEVA (Agencies: 10/8/2008) – UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres today welcomed reports that two humanitarian corridors will be established for civilians caught up in the conflict in and around the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia.
Guterres said UNHCR was ready to provide immediate humanitarian support to Georgian or Russian authorities should they request it.
Reports on Sunday afternoon from Moscow and Tbilisi announced plans for the humanitarian corridors out of South Ossetia – one reportedly to North Ossetia in the Russian Federation and one to the south to Georgia proper.
Several thousand displaced people have already fled from South Ossetia to other parts of Georgia, and thousands more have gone north to North Ossetia in Russia, the UNHCR said, citing figures from authorities there.
The number of those displaced in Georgia proper and South Ossetia is estimated to be between 10,000 and 20,000, said UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond.
"The Georgians have said that 2,400 people have fled into Georgia proper, but our representative there believes this figure is substantially higher," Redmond said.
Sergei Sobyanin, the Russian government chief of staff, has said 30,000 South Ossetian refugees fled to Russia since Friday.
The UNHCR was sending a team to the Georgian town of Gori, scene of Russian bombing, on Sunday to assess needs there and intends to resume aid convoys as soon as possible, Redmond said