UNHCR set to sign agreement for repatriation of Sudanese refugees

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said here Tuesday it will sign a tripartite agreement for the voluntary repatriation of more than 70,000 Sudanese refugees in Kenya later this week.

A statement from the UNHCR Office in Nairobi said the agreement will be signed by UNHCR, Kenya and Sudanese governments in Nairobi on Thursday.

The tripartite agreement will be signed by Kenyan Immigration Minister Gideon Konchella, Sudanese Minister of State for Interior Eleu Ayieny Aleu and UNHCR's Director of Operations for the Sudan Situation, Jean-Marie Fakhouri.

"It was expected that by the time the first organized repatriation took place in the final quarter of 2005, a legal framework for the repatriation operation as a whole would have been established in a tripartite agreement between the governments of Kenya and Sudan and UNHCR," the UN agency said.

The UNHCR mid last month began the voluntary repatriation of more than half a million refugees from south Sudan, marking the end of two decades of exile for many of them.

A first group of 150 refugees among the 72,000 living in north- western Kenya's Kakuma refugee camp returned home under the first organized voluntary repatriation.

The UN refugee agency, along with other agencies, has been carrying out projects to help entire communities, without differentiating between residents who never left and those who are returning.

Fakhouri said late last month that they expect to repatriate 60, 000 Sudanese refugees in neighboring countries in the next five months.

Fakhouri said the refugee agency plans to bring refugees home to South Sudan from the Central African Republic, Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) by end of May when the dry season ends.

The other countries hosting large numbers of refugees from south Sudan are Uganda with 204,400, Ethiopia with 90,500, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with 69,400, and Central African Republic with 36,000 and Egypt with 30,324.

Sudan's civil war in the south came to an end in January, 2005 with the signing of peace accords between the government and rebels.

More than half a million refugees fled to neighboring countries during the civil war, while some four million people are displaced within Sudan, according to the UNHCR.

Source: Xinhua

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