Give now to pre-empt repatriation crisis in south Sudan, says UN refugee chief

28 February 2005

The acting United Nations refugee chief has appealed to the international community to pre-empt a crisis in south Sudan before it happens by investing now in the cash-strapped operation to help 4.5 million refugees and displaced people return home and stay home.

The acting United Nations refugee chief has appealed to the international community to pre-empt a crisis in south Sudan before it happens by investing now in the cash-strapped operation to help 4.5 million refugees and displaced people return home and stay home.

“The crisis isn’t there yet, which makes it harder to galvanize donations, but it is just as important,” Wendy Chamberlin told reporters a day after assuming temporary leadership of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) following the resignation of Ruud Lubbers.

Ms. Chamberlin has just returned from a visit to the region where a UNHCR advance team is preparing for the return of some 550,000 Sudanese from neighbouring countries now that a peace accord between the Government and southern rebels has ended Africa’s longest civil war.

Plans aimed at quickly putting in place the basic groundwork for a voluntary repatriation operation and conditions for refugees to return home will also benefit 4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) who are starting to return on their own to the same areas.

Ms. Chamberlin called for donations for the projects “to prevent suffering, to prevent a crisis when refugees go back.” She expressed caution about a rapid return home of the 550,000 refugees currently in neighbouring countries. Asked by refugees she met in Kenya and Uganda if she would advise them to go home right now, she said she told them: “No. The work isn’t done yet. The infrastructure is not there yet.”

UNHCR’s budget for 2005 for southern Sudan is about $62 million, but so far no funds have been received for the programme. While she noted that some donors, in particular the United States and the Netherlands, have indicated that they will be making contributions, much more is still needed.

 

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