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Repatriation Of Sudanese From Ethiopia Resumed

UN Refugee Agency Resumes Repatriation Of Sudanese From Ethiopia

New York, Dec 15 2006 4:00PM

After a more than six-month suspension due to the rainy season, the United Nations refugee agency has resumed the assisted repatriation of Sudanese from Ethiopia with a first group of 500 leaving for their homeland earlier this week, the vanguard of more than 11,000 expected to return by the end of May.

“We ultimately expect to help return the nearly 70,000 Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia during 2007, 2008,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) regional liaison representative for Africa Ilunga Ngandu said of the Sudanese, who fled the 21-year civil war in southern Sudan that ended with a peace accord in January 2005.

The end of the rains and swampy road conditions allowed the first convoy since late May to leave Bonga camp, near Gambela in western Ethiopia, on Wednesday. It is due to cross into Sudan’s Blue Nile state on Saturday after an 820-kilometre-long journey.

“We had to take this long and tiring route because the other options are either not suitable or unsafe, or both,” said Wella Kouyou, who oversees <"">UNHCR operations in Bonga.

More than 300 of this week’s returnees are aged under 18, indicating that most were probably born and raised in Ethiopia. The main influx of southern Sudanese to Ethiopia came in 1987.

Samuel Nur was born in Sudan, but the 23-year-old was only an infant when his parents fled to Ethiopia in 1987 and his homeland should be as much of a mystery to him as to his four children, but he said his parents had tried to keep him in touch with his roots. “So much so, that I feel like I had been there as a grown-up,” he said, adding that he had passed on his enthusiasm to his kids. That's why they are now so happy to go home

Before leaving Bonga, a camp of 17,000 Sudanese, the returnees received a reintegration package of blankets, jerry cans, sleeping mats, a water filter and a sanitary kit for girls and women. “I am happy to be going home at long last… and I must thank UNHCR and the Ethiopian people for hosting us all those years,” said Taripcana Joseph, a Christian and a mother of four.
Ethiopia hosts close to 69,000 Sudanese in five camps. More than 91,500 Sudanese have returned home from neighbouring countries. Of these, almost 20,000 went back with UNHCR assistance. An estimated 350,000 Sudanese refugees remain in exile.

“With the resumption of the return movement at this point in time, we, together with our partners… expect to assist the return of more than 11,000 Sudanese refugees over the next six months,” Mr. Ngandu said.


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