UN agency plans for repatriating Sudanese refugees to south

13 May 2004

The United Nations refugee agency is making plans to repatriate 150,000 refugees to southern Sudan once the Government, allied militias and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) sign a peace agreement being negotiated in Naivasha, Kenya.

"Even if the peace would be signed tomorrow, it will still be an uphill task to get the ground fully prepared to receive returnees and to absorb them into communities properly," Daisy Buruku, head of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) South Sudan Team, said of plans to return people to the south during the first 18 months after an accord has been reached.

Years of fighting and neglect of infrastructure in the south has made considerable investment necessary to bring roads, schools, water supplies and medical services up to the standard needed to support the refugees when they return home, the agency said.

UNHCR has estimated that the 21-year Sudanese civil war has displaced more than 3 million people inside the country, while a further 600,000 are living in neighbouring countries as refugees.

The biggest numbers of southern Sudanese refugees are in Uganda, with 223,000, while Ethiopia has 88,000, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 69,000 and Kenya, 60,000, UNHCR said.

 

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