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UN Refugee Agency To Help South Sudanese Return

UN Refugee Agency To Help South Sudanese Return From DR Congo

New York, Sep 12 2006 2:00PM

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today announced that it will soon operate a convoy to help some 400 South Sudanese refugees begin their journey home from the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The cross-border, voluntary returns come in the wake of January’s tripartite agreement between UNHCR, Sudan and the DRC allowing the repatriation of refugees in both countries, some of whom have lived abroad for decades.

Agency spokesman Ron Redmond told a press briefing in Geneva today that many Sudanese refugees eager to return home have already made the trip on their own.

Earlier this year, UNHCR organized “go-and-see visits” for community leaders to see their villages, assess living conditions and meet with their home communities and the local authorities.

Tomorrow’s convoy will depart from the Aba area of the DRC’s Oriental Province, where most South Sudanese refugees in the DRC are housed, Mr. Redmond said.

UNHCR staff in South Sudan will provide returning refugees with basic assistance, including construction materials, household items and a three-month food ration supplied by the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

Regular returns from Aba are expected to continue at a rate of one convoy a week during the coming months.

Overall, 350,000 Sudanese fled to neighbouring countries and four million more were internally uprooted during the 21-year civil war in southern Sudan that ended in January 2005 with the signing of a peace agreement between the Government and rebels, according to UNHCR.

Since the end of last year, the agency has also been organizing voluntary repatriations from Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and the Central African Republic.

A separate, still unresolved conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur region has uprooted more than two million people, including more than 200,000 who have fled to eastern Chad.


Ends

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