South Sudan: 'Go and see' visits from Central African Republic
With the organised repatriation of the first of hundreds of thousands of southern Sudanese refugees from neighbouring countries expected to start before the end of November, UNHCR is strengthening its presence in the region and organised the first 'go and see' visit this week for a group of refugees who have been staying in the Central African Republic (CAR).
The group of four refugees - two men and two women - returned to CAR on Wednesday after five days in south Sudan, positive about the prospect of returning despite the poor infrastructure and lack of health and educational facilities. The idea behind the visits is that refugee representatives can see for themselves the conditions in their homeland, then return to tell their fellow refugees about the situation so they can make an informed decision about repatriating. The refugee representatives, who have been in exile for more than 10 years, flew from Mboki camp in CAR to Tambura in the western part of south Sudan, and then visited their areas of origin in Source Yubu and Mupoi. They were warmly welcomed by the local population in all locations. Local officials from Tambura accompanied the refugees back to Mboki in CAR and appealed to the camp population to return to Sudan to help rebuild their country.
In the first stage of the repatriation operation, UNHCR plans to start returning 12,400 refugees from Mboki camp before the end of this month. Refugees will fly from Mboki to Tambura because of the appalling road conditions. Overall, there are 36,000 south Sudanese refugees in CAR, and some 500,000 in neighbouring countries. There are also 4 million displaced persons from south Sudan in the country, including 1.8 million in the capital Khartoum, 1.7 million in south Sudan and 500,000 in East Sudan.
Ahead of the repatriation operation getting underway from various countries, we are continuing to strengthen our presence in south Sudan with emergency teams scheduled to depart for the region from Geneva on Monday, 14 November. The teams will set up offices in the eastern part of south Sudan - in Kapotea, Bor and Nasir - in preparation for Sudanese refugees returning from Ethiopia (90,000 southern Sudanese refugees) and Kenya (65,000 refugees) in the next few months. A roving team, based in Juba will set up way stations for the refugees to stay in during the return voyage.
The emergency teams, leaving from Geneva on a chartered cargo flight, are taking 37 tonnes of equipment, including telecommunications and electronic equipment, so they can set up new offices and become operational as quickly as possible. They will also take tents for offices, portable warehouses for storage, and security equipment - generously financed by the government of Norway.
UNHCR's operation in south Sudan still remains substantially underfunded, with only $39 million out of the $76.3 needed.