South Sudan: Two new return corridors from Ethiopia to open
The planned opening on Saturday of two new repatriation corridors from western Ethiopia to south Sudan is expected to pave the way home for thousands of refugees. The first two convoys are scheduled to depart on Saturday bringing some 800 Sudanese refugees from camps in western Ethiopia to their homes.
The two new return corridors, bringing to three the total number of corridors operating from Ethiopia, will help us repatriate most of the 37,000 refugees living in Fugnido, Dimma and Yerenja camps. Many of the refugees will return to areas in Upper Nile, Jonglei and Blue Nile States in south-eastern Sudan.
The new corridors bring to eight the total number of corridors linking Sudan's southern neighbours - the Central Africa Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia - with various locations inside south Sudan.
On Saturday, the first convoy organized by UNHCR, the Ethiopian government and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is expected to take 300 Sudanese refugees from Fugnido camp to Pagak in Upper Nile State using the newly-opened Gambella - Pagak return corridor. Fugnido, the largest refugee camp in Ethiopia, has a population of 27,000 Sudanese refugees.
A second convoy, scheduled for Saturday, is expected to return 500 refugees from the small and isolated Yarenja camp, north of Gambella opening the Yarenja - Bambodi - Damazin return corridor. We plan to organize a total of three convoys this month to help repatriate Yarenja's small camp population of 1,500 refugees.
Before leaving the camps, UNHCR and its partners will provide returnees with blankets, jerry cans, sleeping mats, a water filter and sanitary kits. Other supplies will be provided upon arrival.
In 2007, we plan to assist some 20,000 Sudanese return from Ethiopia - nearly one-third of the 66,000 Sudanese refugees living in the country. A total of 6,285 Sudanese refugees have already returned home from Ethiopia with UNHCR's assistance since the voluntary repatriation programme was launched in March 2006. Thousands more have returned using their own means.
Since the signing of the peace agreement between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLA) in January 2005, an estimated 102,000 refugees have returned to south Sudan from various countries, including 32,400 with UNHCR's assistance. Last week we launched a $56.1 million appeal for our south Sudan repatriation and reintegration operation this year.