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UN completes repatriation scheme from remote Ethiopian camp to Sudan

UN completes repatriation scheme from remote Ethiopian camp to Sudan

The third and final convoy of southern Sudanese refugees from the Yarenja camp in western Ethiopia returned home this week, completing a United Nations-supervised programme to repatriate 1,500 people from the isolated camp.

The Yarenja camp will soon close, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman William Spindler told journalists today in Geneva, less than a month after a corridor was opened to allow the refugees to cross the border into Sudan and return to Damazine in Blue Nile state.

On Wednesday the final convoy of 494 people reached Blue Nile state after having spent years in exile in Yarenja because of the long-running north-south civil war in Sudan that ended only in January 2005.

Mr. Spindler said the pace of repatriation to southern Sudan has quickened considerably in recent weeks, with about 3,500 people now returning each week with UNHCR’s assistance from either Ethiopia, the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Uganda, Kenya or Egypt.

Next month UNHCR hopes to achieve a weekly rate of 5,000 returnees so that as many people as possible can return home before the annual rainy season begins in May.

In total, the agency aims to help 102,000 Sudanese refugees to return home, along with at least 15,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who are living outside their home villages within Blue Nile state.