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Uganda: Departure of the last convoy of Sudanese refugees

Briefing notes

Uganda: Departure of the last convoy of Sudanese refugees

9 September 2003

The transfer of some 16,000 Sudanese refugees from the over-crowded Kiryandongo camp in Uganda's Masindi district was completed this morning with the departure of the last convoy carrying an estimated 1,500 refugees. The government-run operation was started on September 1 and had earlier been slated for completion by the end of this week.

More than 11,000 refugees are now at an improvised reception centre in Ikafe, a camp still under construction, while another 6,000 to 7,000 are in Madi Okollo, a former camp that has been rehabilitated for the settlement of the relocated group. Both sites are in Uganda's northern Arua district.

The exact number of refugees transferred from Kiryandongo during this operation remains unknown as registration was not carried out before boarding. UNHCR is now registering refugees in the new locations. We have deployed additional staff from various offices in Uganda to assist with the registration and settlement of the refugees at both sites. Plot demarcation is continuing ahead of land allocation to refugee families. The World Food Programme has distributed high-protein biscuits to children and other vulnerable refugees. While water technicians finalise the installation of distribution systems in the camp, we are trucking water from the nearby town of Arua to both sites.

In Kiryandongo, UNHCR is looking at possibilities of providing legal representation for 25 refugees who were arrested last week in connection with violent clashes between Ugandan security forces and Sudanese refugee youths at the start of the relocation exercise on Sept. 1. The refugees have already been charged with various offenses, including disobedience of lawful order, malicious damage to property and carrying arms in public. Twenty-one of the refugees have already appeared before the local magistrate in Kiryandongo. Three minors who were also arrested in the police roundup have been released to their families. It is expected that charges against them will be dropped.

The refugees who have been transferred to the north are part of a group of 24,000 Sudanese refugees who were displaced from Achol-Pii camp in Kitgum district, following a series of vicious attacks by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in August 2002. The first group of 8,000 was transferred to another camp within weeks of their arrival in Kiryandongo, which had no room for expansion to accommodate the refugees from Achol-Pii.