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UN agency resumes repatriation of Sudanese refugees from Kenyan camp

UN agency resumes repatriation of Sudanese refugees from Kenyan camp

The United Nations refugee agency has resumed its repatriation of Sudanese from a camp in the northwest of neighbouring Kenya after the operation had been temporarily suspended because of deadly tribal clashes.

The repatriation scheme resumed last Thursday with the first flight from Kakuma camp to Bor, the capital of Jonglei state in southern Sudan, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Ron Redmond told reporters today in Geneva.

The returns are expected to continue at an average rate of four flights per week from Kakuma, using a plane chartered by the International Organization for Migration. Eventually 46,000 Sudanese refugees living in Kakuma are likely to return to their home areas, mainly in Jonglei.

Mr. Redmond said the organized returns would focus initially on Bor, but also include Pochalla, Pibor and Akobo, close to the border with Ethiopia. At the end of last year tribal clashes – sparked by cattle thefts – erupted in Bor, leading to the deaths of at least 30 people and injuring 100 others.

The repatriation programme, which brought 3,000 refugees back to Jonglei last year before the clashes began, has also been made harder by the lack of basic infrastructure in the return areas of southern Sudan.

Mr. Redmond said UNHCR is helping to remedy the situation by drilling boreholes and also rehabilitating or building schools and health-care centres.

Since December 2005, almost a year after the former southern rebels signed a comprehensive peace agreement with the Sudanese Government to end their long-running civil war, UNHCR has helped 80,000 refugees return home from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR), Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Egypt. Another 90,500 people returned by their own means.

In a related development, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) today thanked the Japanese Government for its $12 million contribution to the agency’s road repair and mine removal project in southern Sudan.

The grant will be used to build 85 kilometres of new roads and maintain 595 kilometres of existing roads, which should make it easier to deliver critical food assistance during the rainy season this year.