Ethiopia-Sudan: Two refugee camps to close down
|Publisher||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)|
|Publication Date||29 February 2008|
|Cite as||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Ethiopia-Sudan: Two refugee camps to close down, 29 February 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47cbc6281e.html [accessed 31 July 2015]|
UNHCR, with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Ethiopian government, resumed the repatriation of Sudanese refugees from Bonga camp, in Gambella regional state, on 23 February.
"We restarted this repatriation season last December and we had to take a break because of end-of-year festivity to allow staff to be with their families," Cosmas Chanda, UNHCR's deputy representative in Ethiopia, told IRIN.
UNHCR began repatriating Sudanese refugees in March 2006 and was able to send 21,000 home until a disruption in May 2007 due to the rainy season. During December, 1,845 Sudanese refugees returned to their country.
"We restarted this year by sending about 600 Sudanese refugees back home," Chanda said. "The plan for us is to continue moving about 600 at least for the next 10 to 12 weeks. We are talking about returning a population of 15,000 back home before the rainy season starts."
If the repatriation programme continues without disruption, it will lead to the closure of the Bonga and Dima camp.
"We have slightly over 5,000 people in Bonga refugee camp," Chanda said. "If the operation moves according to plan, there should not be any more refugees by May this year.
"There are about 2,500 refugees in Dimma. It should also be able to close at about the same time," he added.
Established in January 1986, Dimma is the second Ethiopian camp to host Southern Sudanese refugees after Itang, founded in 1983. The Administration of Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), a government institution that runs the refugee camps, also established Bonga and Pugindo camps in 1993. After the previous repatriations, ARRA shut down Yarenja camps in Benshagul Gumuz regional state, which hosted about 4,000 Sudanese refugees.
According to Estifanos Gebremedhin, head of ARRA's Gambella sub-office, there is a plan to turn the two camps into training centres. "In our exit strategy it has been determined that Bonga should be turned into an agricultural training centre," Estifanos said. "In Dimma we want to engage in training the local community in handicrafts and weaving in collaboration with the regional education bureau."
Using the Kurmuk corridor, the 605 returning refugees travelled 820km in a convoy of 12 buses and four trucks. They passed the Sudanese border town of Kurmuk and arrived in Chali-El Fiel in the Blue Nile state of Southern Sudan on 26 February.
Before their departure from Bonga camp, UNHCR provided blankets, jerry cans, sleeping mats, a water filter and a sanitary kit for females. The IOM also assisted in managing logistics, pre-return medical screening and fitness for travel.
Ethiopia hosts 35,136 Sudanese refugees in four camps. The recent returnees will join the 160,000 who have returned to Southern Sudan after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in January 2005 between the ex-rebel force and the government of Sudan. A tripartite agreement signed by UNHCR with the governments of Ethiopia and Sudan in February 2006 laid the legal framework for the repatriation operation.