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Refugee Agency to Start Repatriation to S Sudan

UN Refugee Agency Will Start Voluntary Repatriation to South Sudan on Saturday

New York, Dec 13 2005 3:00PM

The United Nations refugee agency said today that it plans to start the voluntary repatriation of southern Sudanese this Saturday with a group of 150 people from among the 72,000 living in north-western Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp.

“This first official movement is symbolic of the refugees’ desire to re-establish themselves in their homeland and our desire to help them do so,” spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told reporters at the UN complex in Geneva.

Sudan’s 21-year civil war in the south came to an end in January this year when a peace accord was signed between the Government and the southern rebels. Up to half a million refugees who have been living in camps and settlements in neighbouring countries could return in the next few years, along with up to 4 million internally displaced people (IDPs).

With their possessions having already been transported by cargo plane on Friday, one group of refugees will board two passenger planes going from Kakuma to Bor in South Sudan, Ms. Pagonis said.

A convoy of buses and trucks is scheduled to transport another group of refugees and their possessions to Nadapal on the border, where the returnees will be welcomed home by South Sudanese authorities. Shortly after the ceremony, the convoy will split into two heading for the towns of Kapoeta and Chukudum, both in Eastern Equatoria.

UNHCR will provide the returnees with basic household goods to help them survive at home, as well as two weeks’ supply of food to last until the UN World Food Programme (WFP) makes a planned distribution in early January, Ms. Pagonis said.

UNHCR, along with other agencies, has been carrying out projects to help entire communities, without differentiating between residents who never left and those who are returning, she said.

“We have built schools, water points, hospitals and vocational training centres to help them rebuild their lives and stay home,” she said. “The new services are also intended as a spur to economic development and should help promote reconciliation between returnees and local communities.”

The other countries hosting large numbers of refugees from South Sudan are Uganda with 204,400, Ethiopia with 90,500, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with 69,400, Central African Republic with 36,000 and Egypt with 30,324.


ENDS

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