UNHCR-assisted returns from Uganda to Sudan top 50,000
PALORINYA, Uganda, April 18 (UNHCR) - The number of Sudanese refugees repatriated from Uganda with UNHCR assistance topped the 50,000 mark on Friday when a convoy carrying 240 people left here for the border.
The five-truck convoy left Palorinya refugee settlement in northern Uganda's Moyo District in the morning and, after crossing the border, was expected to stop Friday night at a UNHCR way station in Nimule, South Sudan.
The refugees will be given a repatriation package, including blankets, sleeping mats, plastic sheets, mosquito nets, water buckets, kitchen sets, jerry cans, soap, seeds and tools, before being transported on Saturday from Nimule to their home villages in Eastern Equatoria state.
"We are really happy that we have been able to help 50,000 Sudanese to return home. Many more Sudanese are waiting for our support to go back to South Sudan and we hope to satisfy their request as soon as possible," said Stefano Severe, UNHCR representative in Uganda.
The UN refuge agency's Uganda office launched the assisted repatriation programme in May 2006 and of the 50,000 returnees, almost half (24,000) were helped back home since the beginning of this year. A further 59,000 Sudanese refugees are believed to have returned home from the northern Uganda districts of Moyo, Arua, Yumbe, and Adjumani without outside help in the past two years.
And the rate of return is expected to increase substantially. Currently, an average 1,200 refugees are returning from Uganda to South Sudan every week - this figure is expected to rise to more than 3,000 from this month.
Jennifer Modong, a 42-year-old widow who was on Friday's convoy, said she was happy to be going back to South Sudan after more than a decade of living in refugee settlements in Moyo. "I look forward to settling down and building my own house when I get home," she said, before boarding a truck at Palorinya.
As of January this year, Uganda was hosting 175,000 refugees, including 97,600 Sudanese. The total also includes almost 40,000 refugees from Democratic Republic of the Congo, 18,000 from Rwanda and about 12,000 from Kenya. Overall, more than 250,000 refugees have returned to Sudan from various countries of asylum since peace was forged in the south in January 2005.
By Roberta Russo in Palorinya, Uganda