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KENYA-SUDAN: UN agency to repatriate 3,000 Sudanese by December

NAIROBI, 29 November 2007 (IRIN) - The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, will repatriate at least 3,000 Sudanese from the Kakuma camp in northwestern Kenya by end-December, an official told IRIN.

"Two flights are scheduled to leave Kakuma today [29 November]; in fact, one has already left with 39 passengers for Rumbek [Southern Sudan]; the second one will leave later in the day with 42 passengers, also for Rumbek," Emmanuel Nyabera, the UNHCR spokesman, said.

He added that two other flights would leave Kakuma for Rumbek on 30 November, each with 40 passengers.

The latest repatriation, which began on 21 November, brings the number of refugees assisted by UNHCR to return to Southern Sudan this year to 4,577, Nyabera said. At least 200 refugees left for Bor in Jonglei state on flights from Kakuma on 21 and 22 November.

He said the repatriation resumed after a three-month lull due to poor weather and road conditions, as well as insecurity in Southern Sudan.

According to UNHCR, at least 8,000 of the 50,000 refugees in Kakuma have registered to return home despite political tension between the central government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) over the implementation of a peace agreement signed in 2005, which ended more than two decades of civil war between the north and south.

Nyabera said prior to their departure, the refugees underwent awareness courses on HIV/AIDS and the danger of landmines.

"They were also told about their rights and obligations back in South Sudan," he said.

UNHCR has supported the repatriation of 70,000 refugees to Southern Sudan since it launched an assisted voluntary repatriation programme in December 2005, 6,000 of whom had been based in Kakuma. The agency said at least 90,000 were believed to have returned home on their own, including 20,000 from northern Kenya.

On 22 November, UNHCR and the Sudanese and Ethiopian governments signed a tripartite agreement in the North Sudanese capital, Khartoum, for the return of at least 30,000 refugees who were living in camps in Ethiopia.

"More than 41,000 Sudanese currently live in four camps in Ethiopia and we are repatriating refugees from all of them," Ato Ayalew Aweke, deputy director of Ethiopia's Administration of Refugee and Returnee Affairs, said at a press conference in the capital, Khartoum, following the signing of the agreement. "We are hoping to have closed two camps in Gambella [western Ethiopia] by the end of 2008."

The remaining 11,000 refugees would be repatriated by the end of 2009.




Copyright © IRIN 2007
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