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South Sudan: Suspension of repatriation to certain areas

Briefing notes

South Sudan: Suspension of repatriation to certain areas

21 March 2006

Following recent armed attacks in south Sudan, we have decided to suspend the repatriation of Sudanese refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR), Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to the Yei, Yambio, Kajo Keji areas of South Sudan starting today and to Tambura from Wednesday. Our international staff working in these locations in Central and Western Equatoria have been relocated or are in the process of being relocated to other areas in south Sudan for two weeks.

This decision was taken following heavy fighting in Yambio on Saturday night near the compound of a non-governmental organization (NGO). The Sudanese People Liberation Army (SPLA) intervened and scattered the armed groups. Even though UNHCR staff were not directly targeted in Yambio, in view of the extremely volatile situation we have decided to relocate our two staff. Other humanitarian agencies working in Yambio have also relocated their staff to Juba, the capital of south Sudan, or to Rumbek. Although calm has been restored in Yambio, the situation remains tense.

We are sending three people on mission today from Geneva to assess the security situation in the repatriation areas of South Sudan, and to evaluate the measures needed to ensure the security and safety of our staff. Our director for the Sudan operation, Jean-Marie Fakhouri, arrived in Juba yesterday and will travel in the region over the next days.

The weekend incident in Yambio follows an attack on the UNHCR compound in Yei last week. Last Wednesday, two armed intruders entered our Yei compound, killed one guard working for us and wounded another. One international staff member was also shot, and although his health has improved he is still in critical but stable condition in a Nairobi hospital. The guard, who was also evacuated to Kenya, is now out of danger.

There are still some 350,000 Sudanese refugees from south Sudan in neighbouring countries and some four million more are displaced within Sudan as a result of the 21-year civil war that ended with a peace accord 14 months ago.