First Darfur refugee returns from Chad
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, earlier this week and together with the Governments of Chad and Sudan, facilitated the first in what is hoped will be a new series of voluntary returns of Sudanese refugees living in Chad.
A group of 53 refugees left the Iridimi camp in eastern Chad last Saturday and arrived in a reception centre in Tina, North Darfur after a road journey of four hours (70 kilometers) in UNHCR arranged buses.
On arrival in Sudan, they spent two days in a reception centre before heading on to their final destinations. These returnees are the first of thousands who are expected to return voluntarily in the coming months. Most have been living in Chad for years.
The returns follow the signing of a tripartite agreement on the voluntary repatriation of Sudanese refugees by UNHCR and the Governments of Sudan and Chad in May of last year.
The war in the Darfur region of Sudan broke out in February 2003, when rebel groups began fighting the government of Sudan. The ensuing conflict killed tens of thousands and displaced millions of people within Sudan and over its borders.
The returning refugees fled Darfur in 2003 -2004. Prior to their return, refugee representatives had visited their villages in Darfur, before making the decision to return. UNHCR continues to register more refugees as they express their intention to return to Sudan. Returning refugees are provided with transport and a return package to help them initially at their places of return in Sudan. The returnee package includes three months food rations, provided by the World Food Programme (WFP).
UNHCR is working to support efforts of Sudanese authorities to improve services in North Darfur together with UN sister agencies and other partners as return areas are in need of urgent rehabilitation. The support of the international community is also required to make returns durable and sustainable. A UNHCR funding appeal for our operations in 2018 of nearly US$256 million is only 14 per cent funded.
More refugees have indicated their interest in returning to Sudan in the coming months, and as the security situation in Darfur improves. The region has witnessed a growing trend of returns of refugees and internally displaced people in the last few years. In December 2017, UNHCR helped some 1,500 refugees return to South Darfur from the Central African Republic through an air operation.
This is in part thanks to general security improvements in Darfur as a result of peace agreements between the government and some armed groups. A disarmament exercise carried out by the government throughout Darfur as well as the efforts of the peacekeeping mission led by the United Nations-African Union hybrid force, are also contributing to making areas safer for displaced people to return.
Around two million people are currently displaced inside Sudan, while more than 650,000 Sudanese refugees live in neighbouring countries - including Chad and South Sudan. Some 300,000 refugees from Darfur are currently living in 12 UNHCR and government run camps in eastern Chad.
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