Ethiopia: Over 1,000 Sudanese set to return
Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, more than 1,000 Sudanese refugees - mainly from the Dinka and Shuluk minority ethnic groups - are scheduled to return to Sudan over the next 10 days. We expect to launch the first voluntary repatriation airlift from Ethiopia tomorrow (April 14). A plane carrying 50 refugees is scheduled to take off from the Gambella airport and fly to Juba, South Sudan. It will be the first of three flights scheduled to ferry 150 returning refugees on Saturday.
The Dinka refugees will be going from Fugnido and Dimma camps, and the smaller groups such as the Shuluk will depart from Bonga camp to various destinations in South Sudan. We expect to repatriate 1,064 refugees to remote towns and villages in the Upper Nile, Jongley, South Kordofan and other states.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and ARRA (Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs) - UNHCR's main government counterpart- are assisting with the transportation of refugees from different camps to the Gambella airport and with provision of food and medical services. This air repatriation supplements the ongoing road repatriation of Sudanese refugees from Ethiopia. The areas of return in Sudan for the Dinkas and other minority groups in our camps in western Ethiopia are extremely difficult to access by road, hence the resort to an airlift. Refugees will fly from Ethiopia to Juba, Malakal and other airports in Sudan before being transported to their villages.
Returnees will receive some basic items before departure such as water filters. Upon arrival in Sudan, they will receive the remaining aid package including blankets, jerry cans, sleeping mats, sanitary kits, soap, plastic sheets for temporary roofing, mosquito nets, water buckets and cooking sets.
The World Food Programme and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) have also agreed to provide returnees with three months of food rations as well as agricultural tools and seeds to help them rebuild their lives.
We plan to resume airborne repatriation after the rainy season, in September-October, and bring another 1,800 refugees to Sudan by the end of the year. More than 15,000 Sudanese refugees have returned from Ethiopia since the UNHCR-assisted return operation began in March 2006 - including over 10,400 since 26 February 2007. Some 55,000 Sudanese refugees are still sheltered in four camps in Ethiopia. In total, at least 300,000 Sudanese refugees remain in camps in neighbouring countries. In 2007, UNHCR and its partners plan to assist 102,000 people to come back home.