UN agency resumes repatriation of Sudanese refugees from Kenyan camp
Some 200 refugees from Kakuma camp were flown to the town of Bor, located in Jonglei state in southern Sudan, last week and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today that many more are waiting to join them.
At least 8,000 of the estimated 50,000 Sudanese refugees living at Kakuma have registered to return to their homeland, despite recent tensions between the Sudanese Government and the former southern rebels over the implementation of the January 2005 peace accord that ended their long-running civil war.
UNHCR said it expects that about 3,000 people will return, either by land or by air, between now and the end of the year, joining the 4,000 who returned before the repatriation programme was halted in August. In total, the agency has supported the return of 70,000 people to southern Sudan since late 2005, while another 90,000 have returned on their own.
Returnees were given awareness courses about HIV and AIDS and about the dangers of landmines, while they were also informed about the rights and obligations in southern Sudan, where two decades of conflict have left the region lacking basic infrastructure and services.
UNHCR is also conducting programmes in Sudan aimed at easing the reintegration of returnees into their former communities. Activities include mine clearing and building or renovating schools, health centres and boreholes.
Mohammad Arif, the agency’s senior repatriation officer in Kakuma, described the mood in the camp as upbeat after it was announced the return programme was resuming.
“The refugees are really keen to go back home,” he said. “Some of them have been here for more than 15 years. That is such a long time to be in exile.”