UNHCR resumes repatriation of Sudanese refugees

Addis Ababa- Ethiopia (PANA) -- After a seven-month lull, the voluntary repatriation of Southern Sudanese refugees from Ethiopia resumes on 13 December 2006, the Africa Regional Liaison Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR-RLO) here said Saturday.
The Refugee agency had stopped the exercise in the third week of May following the rainy season that rendered the roads impassable and resettlement of the returnees in Southern Sudan difficult.
At least 2,000 refugees should be repatriated before the end of the year from Bonga camp in Ethiopia's Gambella regional state, where the operation officially took off on 31 March 2006, UNHCR said.
Before suspension of the operation, the UN agency had transported more than 2,500 refugees from Bonga and Sherkole camps.
Some 500 refugees are scheduled to leave Bonga camp at dawn next Wednesday to Blue Nile State of South Sudan.
According to UNHCR officials here, the operation will continue in 2007 until the onset of the rainy season, probably in May.
The agency's target is to assist a total of 9,250 refugees to return to their home country between January and May 2007.
Ethiopia hosted close to 70,000 refugees from South Sudan during the over 20-year civil war that ended last year with the signing of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the authorities in Khartoum and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) on 9 January 2005.

09 december 2006 10:31:00

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