UN refugee agency opens new passageway to aid Sudanese returns from Uganda
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has stepped up efforts to repatriate Sudanese refugees living in Uganda with the opening of a major new return corridor in South Sudan.
The new route, which runs through the Sudanese town of Nimule, links the refugee settlements in Uganda with Eastern Equatoria state in South Sudan.
Some 70 per cent of the 160,000 Sudanese refugees living in a string of 11 camps in Uganda are from Sudan’s Central and Eastern Equatoria States.
A first convoy carrying 133 Sudanese refugees from two camps in Uganda’s Hoima district arrived last Wednesday in Nimule.
“People [in the convoy] were very happy to be back,” said Chris Hamm, head of the UNHCR team in the town of Nimule, which is located in Magwi County.
Until recently, UNHCR was not able to operate in Magwi due to activities by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the area. However, improved security conditions following an LRA withdrawal from the area several months ago have encouraged refugees to return.
“Since March this year, no security incident attributed to LRA or other armed groups has been reported in Nimule or Magwi. Many of the displaced people have started to return to their villages,” Hamm noted. “We feel that the situation is gradually conducive for repatriation.”
The opening of a third return corridor was agreed on at a meeting in Kampala last May between UNHCR and the Governments of Uganda and Sudan amid improving security on both sides of the border. The other routes from Uganda are Moyo–Kajo Keji and Arua–Yei–Juba.
With the additional return route now open, UNHCR expects growing numbers of Sudanese to opt for return this year.
Some 157,000 Sudanese refugees have so far returned to South Sudan and Blue Nile state since the launch of voluntary repatriation to Sudan in December 2005.