High Commissioner António Guterres to visit South Sudan and Sudan

Briefing Notes, 6 January 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 6 January 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres is travelling to South Sudan this weekend. He will be in the capital Juba on Saturday and visit a refugee site in Mabaan on Sunday. He will also travel to Sudan from 10 to 13 January.

In South Sudan, UNHCR is supporting the government of the newly-independent country to reintegrate some 660,000 returnees, including 360,000 South Sudanese who have come from Sudan and some 300,000 who have returned mostly from other neighbouring countries.

Recent fighting in Sudan's Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States has caused some 75,000 Sudanese refugees to flee across the border into Unity and Upper Nile States in South Sudan, as well as some 23,500 into Ethiopia. To assist the arriving refugees, UNHCR has started airlifting relief supplies into Malakal and Mabaan. Since 20 December, 16 flights have delivered 1,450 family tents, 10,000 kitchen sets, 18,000 blankets, 18,000 jerry cans, plastic sheets, sleeping mats, mosquito nets and other essential relief items. The airlift is ongoing and more assistance is needed.

Meanwhile, in South Sudan, the recent outbreak of inter-ethnic fighting in Jonglei State between the Lou Nuer and Murle ethnic groups has resulted in major internal population movements.

On Tuesday, Guterres will fly to Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. From there, he is scheduled to travel to Kassala in East Sudan, scene of one of the most protracted refugee situations in the world. Some 70,000 refugees mostly of Eritrean origin reside in 12 camps. Refugees and the local host community face similar hardships: acute poverty, draught and risk of famine, lack of access to health and education, land degradation and high unemployment. Guterres will discuss with the authorities programmes aimed at enhancing self-reliance.

In addition to the 70,000 refugees, there is a regular influx of some 1,700 asylum seekers per month, mostly from Eritrea.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Khartoum, Sudan: Vivian Tan on mobile +249 912 307 489
  • In Juba, South Sudan: Mireille Girard on mobile +249 927 770 050
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Repatriation

UNHCR works with the country of origin and host countries to help refugees return home.

Returnees in Myanmar

During the early 1990s, more than 250,000 Rohingya Muslims fled across the border into Bangladesh, citing human rights abuses by Myanmar's military government. In exile, refugees received shelter and assistance in 20 camps in the Cox's Bazaar region of Bangladesh. More than 230,000 of the Rohingya Muslims have returned since 1992, but about 22,000 still live in camps in Bangladesh. To promote stability in returnee communities in Myanmar and to help this group of re-integrate into their country, UNHCR and its partner agencies provide monitors to insure the protection and safety of the returnees as well as vocational training, income generation schemes, adult literacy programs and primary education.

Returnees in Myanmar

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

Bonga camp is located in the troubled Gambella region of western Ethiopia. But it remains untouched by the ethnic conflicts that have torn nearby Gambella town and Fugnido camp in the last year.

For Bonga's 17,000 Sudanese refugees, life goes on despite rumblings in the region. Refugee children continue with school and play while their parents make ends meet by supplementing UNHCR assistance with self-reliance projects.

Cultural life is not forgotten, with tribal ceremonies by the Uduk majority. Other ethnic communities – Shuluks, Nubas and Equatorians – are welcome too, judging by how well hundreds of newcomers have settled in after their transfer from Fugnido camp in late 2002.

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

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Ahead of South Sudan's landmark January 9, 2011 referendum on independence, tens of thousands of southern Sudanese in the North packed their belongings and made the long trek south. UNHCR set up way stations at key points along the route to provide food and shelter to the travellers during their arduous journey. Several reports of rapes and attacks on travellers reinforced the need for these reception centres, where women, children and people living with disabilities can spend the night. UNHCR has made contingency plans in the event of mass displacement after the vote, including the stockpiling of shelter and basic provisions for up to 50,000 people.

Southerners on the move before Sudanese vote

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