Nairobi- Kenya (PANA) -- Sudanese refugees in Kenya will have restricted access to educational facilities in the various refugee camps in Kenya ahead of the expiry of their asylum status within the next two years, a joint team of experts said here.
The team of immigration experts, consisting of officials from Kenya, Sudan and the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, agreed during a meeting in Nairobi Wednesday to restrict access to educational facilities for the Sudanese refugees.
"The refugees want to stay because of the education facilities they have in the camps.
We are saying they have to go back to reconstruct their country, they cannot stay here forever," Kenyan Immigration Permanent Secretary, Emmanuel Kisombe told PANA after holding a joint meeting with Sudanese and UNHCR officials.
Kenya currently hosts 43,000 Sudanese refugees in its largest refugee camp, Kakuma, situated in the northern region, near the common border with Somalia.
At least 5,500 refugees have been assisted to return home while 20,000 returned home on their own since last year after the voluntary returns programme began.
Some 6,000 to 10,000 returnees are expected in Sudan later this year.
The UNHCR has built at least three secondary schools, 21 primary schools and seven pre-primary education facilities to cater for younger refugees.
The immigration and relief experts who met here under the Tripartite Commission on Repatriation of Sudanese refugees also agreed on the need to implement a set of new regulations to reduce the number of Sudanese returnees moving back to the camps.
"The plan is to reduce access to education facilities for Sudanese refugees and build these facilities in South Sudan.
This policy and strategy is intended to respect the right of all children to education," said UNHCR Representative Eddie Gedalof said.
In a communiqué issued after the meeting, the officials announced that they agreed to improve border controls between Kenya and Southern Sudan to restrict the number of Sudanese refugees returning to the camps on the Kenyan side after voluntarily returning.
Southern Sudanese officials said although the refugees were not forced to return, they should begin making preparations for their returns because of the upcoming political activities, including the country's first ever population census set for 2008.
"The conditions on the ground may not be right everywhere in Sudan because of floods in some places and the lack of facilities such as they have been used to in the camps but we want them to return," said Elijah Ayom, South Sudan's Relief Commissioner.
He asked the refugees should brace for tough conditions back home, saying almost everything that existed in Southern Sudan was razed down during the 21-year war.
He said the repatriation of Sudanese refugees would not be affected by recent exchanges between the Southern government and the northern administration over the sharing of oil revenues and demarcation of borders for oil producing provinces in the south.