Wednesday, May 7, 2008
After 23,000 refugees returned home to South Sudan, the United Nations refugee agency has closed two camps in western Ethiopia.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced yesterday that it had closed Bonga and Dimma camps after the organization assisted refugees to return, mainly to Blue Nile state in South Sudan. Last week's closures bring to three the number of camps which have been emptied in western Ethiopia since last year.
The repatriation operation has now halted for the rainy season and is scheduled to begin again in November. Around 3,000 refugees who remain in the two camps will be transferred to other camps in Ethiopia. Some of these refugees have indicated that they will return to Sudan later in the year using their own means.
UNHCR is now planning to rehabilitate the camps before handing them over for use by the local community. There are proposals to use one as an agricultural centre and the other as a technical training college.
Overall, some 275,000 Sudanese refugees have returned to South Sudan since 2006 from various surrounding countries, including Uganda, Ethiopia, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya. This year alone, some 47,000 Sudanese refugees have returned home, mainly with UNHCR assistance.