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Sudan: Voluntary repatriation from Uganda picking up

Briefing notes

Sudan: Voluntary repatriation from Uganda picking up

17 August 2007

UNHCR stepped up this week the pace of voluntary returns of Sudanese refugees from Uganda to South Sudan by opening a new major return corridor through the town of Nimule, on the southern tip of Sudan's border with Uganda. The new route links the refugee settlements in Uganda with Eastern Equatoria State in Sudan. Uganda hosts one of the largest populations of Sudanese refugees. Some 70 percent of the 160,000 Sudanese refugees living in a string of 11 camps in Uganda originate from Sudan's Central and Eastern Equatoria States.

Following the withdrawal of the Ugandan rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) from the area around the middle of this year, security has gradually returned to many parts of Eastern Equatoria, boosting the confidence of many Sudanese refugees to return.

Nimule is the third repatriation corridor between the two countries. The other routes from Uganda are Moyo - Kajo Keji and Arua - Yei - Juba. The new route was agreed at the Tripartite Commission meeting in Kampala in May between the governments of Uganda and Sudan and UNHCR.

The first convoy through Nimule arrived on Wednesday (15 August) carrying 133 Sudanese refugees from Kyangwali and Kiryandongo settlements in Uganda's Hoima district.

We have now established a presence in Nimule to support the repatriation and reintegration of refugees expected to return to this part of Sudan in the coming months. Some 70,000 Sudanese refugees in Uganda are from Magwi and Torit Counties of Eastern Equatoria. These areas are key to the repatriation effort from Uganda.

Until recently, UNHCR was not able to operate in Magwi County due to the presence of the LRA. Since the mid-1990s, the LRA has been active in Eastern Equatoria State. From there they terrorized villagers, abducted residents and regularly ambushed vehicles travelling via Nimule from northern Uganda to Juba in South Sudan.

We also continue to organize voluntary repatriations of Sudanese from Kakuma camp in north-western Kenya. Road convoys are organized every fortnight, aiding the return of refugees from Kakuma to Kapoeta in Eastern Equatoria. Once back in Sudan, returnees are assisted to reach their homes in the surrounding villages. A total of 25,572 Sudanese refugees have so far returned from Kakuma. Some 5,600 were directly assisted to return by UNHCR. The pace of returns from Kakuma camp is expected to pick up in the coming months and may see the voluntary return of nearly 7,000 Sudanese refugees who have expressed an interest to return mainly to Jonglei and Eastern Equatoria states.

In total, some 157,000 Sudanese refugees have so far returned to South Sudan and Blue Nile State since the launch of the voluntary repatriation to Sudan in December 2005. Of this figure, some 66,500 returned home with UNHCR assistance from five countries bordering Sudan, namely the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia. Our repatriation operations from the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were concluded in April and June respectively this year. In Ethiopia, the repatriation operation which was suspended in May during the rainy season is expected to resume towards the end of the year.