UNHCR launches air operation to bring Darfur refugees home
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, this week started the voluntary repatriation of Sudanese refugees from a camp in Bambari, in the Central African Republic, or CAR.
More than 230 refugees have arrived at Sudan’s Nyala airport since the returns began on Tuesday. Sixty-six UNHCR chartered flights are scheduled to bring some 1,500 refugees home before the end of the year.
Nearly 3,500 refugees had fled from South Darfur to CAR in 2007 during the conflict between the Sudanese forces and armed groups. Refugees were being hosted in Pladama Ouaka camp, near Bambari.
In late November, refugees expressed their intention to return. The decision comes after improvement in the security situation and the disarmament of armed groups in the areas of origin. Returning refugees are currently being hosted in a transit centre in the capital of South Darfur State and will subsequently be returning to their home villages in Dafag, South Darfur – located at some 350 kilometres from Nyala.
UNHCR is working with the governments of Sudan and CAR in assisting the returnees with air and land transportation and return packages. Returning refugees will also have access to land. We are working with government authorities and other partners to enhance service provision in the return area. Sudan has pledged to implement international standards governing refugee returns - including the benefit of amnesties, as well as UNHCR’s role in monitoring the returns.
The war in the Darfur region of Sudan broke out in February 2003, when rebel groups began fighting the government of Sudan. The ensuing conflict killed tens of thousands and displaced millions of people within Sudan and over its borders.
Sudan’s Darfur region has witnessed a growing trend of refugees and IDPs returning spontaneously in the last few years. This is in part due to gradual security improvements, as a result of signed peace agreements between the governments of some armed groups, as well as the efforts of the peacekeeping mission led by the United Nations-African Union hybrid force. Many areas have also become more conducive for displaced people to return due to a growing number of early recovery and development initiatives.
Around two million people are currently displaced inside the country, while more than 650,000 Sudanese refugees live in the neighbouring countries - including Chad and South Sudan.
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