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South Sudan: First repatriation convoy from Ethiopia arrives

Briefing notes

South Sudan: First repatriation convoy from Ethiopia arrives

4 April 2006

Some 500 Sudanese refugees arrived home yesterday (Monday) in UNHCR's first repatriation movement from Ethiopia to the Blue Nile state in south Sudan. Their return convoy spent three days travelling from Bonga refugee camp in Gambella, western Ethiopia. The refugees left Bonga on Friday and spent three nights in purpose-built way stations along the 820-km route. They arrived at the border town of Kurmuk on Monday. The refugees returned to a rousing welcome after two decades in exile. A white bull was slaughtered and a prayer session held before the refugees officially crossed the border.

UNHCR supplied all returning refugees with a package of non-food items, including blankets, sleeping mats, plastic sheets, guinea-worm filters, kitchen sets and soap. The standard reintegration assistance, including a food ration planned to last until the returnees get their first harvest, is distributed at the dispersal point in Chali.

UNHCR expects to repatriate 4,500 refugees to the Blue Nile State from Ethiopia before the rainy season starts at the end of May. Altogether, some 14,000 south Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia have expressed the desire to go home. Some 79,000 refugees live in five camps in western Ethiopia - Bonga, Dimma, Fugnido, Sherkole and Yarenja. Most arrived in 1983 and in the 1990s, fleeing civil war in south Sudan.