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UN-assisted refugee repatriation in South Sudan tops 100,000

UN-assisted refugee repatriation in South Sudan tops 100,000

Sudanese refugees returning home from Ethiopia
More than 100,000 people who fled the decades-long civil war in southern Sudan have returned home to restart their lives in a repatriation programme that began after the signing of a 2005 peace agreement, the United Nations refugee agency said today.

“The 100,000 milestone was passed this week as the pace of return convoys picked up from countries neighbouring South Sudan to get refugees home ahead of the rainy season in May, and for those who want to return for the national census on 5 to 30 April,” Ron Redmond, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees announced in Geneva.

Mr. Redmond said that the agency is now helping some 4,500 refugees return each week to southern Sudan – an increase from 3,000 a fortnight ago. By mid-April that figure is expected to jump to 6,000 returnees a week as transport for returnees from Uganda and Ethiopia are increased.

The largest number of refugees is returning from Uganda, with some 2,700 returnees a week and more than 5,000 refugees have returned from Kakuma camp in Kenya this year, with another 2,000 expected to go home in April, according to UNHCR.

Returns from Ethiopia, now running at the rate of 1,200 returnees a week, are expected to result in the closure of two camps there.

A total of 251,000 refugees have returned to Sudan – 100,000 in organized programmes and the rest on their own – since the signing in January 2005 of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended the north-south civil war that killed as many as two million people and displaced 4.5 million others.

The return movements are being organized in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the German agency GTZ, refugee host governments and the Government of Southern Sudan.

In February, UNHCR launched an appeal for $63 million to fund its 2008 southern Sudan operations.