Sudan: UNHCR Rejects Reports of Repatriation to Sudanese Refugees in Ethiopia

Addis Ababa — The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Ethiopia has rejected a media report claiming arrangements have been made to repatriate some 33,000 Sudanese refugees from camps in Ethiopia.

The government affiliated Sudanese Media Centre this week also reported Sudan's Refugee Commissioner, Hamad Al Guzali, as saying that the refugees, displaced from Blue Nile state in fighting between the military and rebels, could be repatriated before autumn.

However a senior public information officer at the UNHCR in Addis Ababa, Kisut Gebregzabhir, has rejected the reports.

"We are not currently facilitating any repatriation operation to Sudanese refugees", Kisut told Sudan Tribune.

The UN spokesperson also refuted the commissioner's claim that Sudanese refugees were willing to return home because of the stable situation in Blue Nile state.

"Any repatriation operation has to be voluntarily in which case refugees have to come forward and ask the UNHCR to assist them to return home" Kisut said.

"We have not received such requests so far," he added

According to Kisut, the UN refugee agency carried out a huge operation between 2006 and 2009 repatriating some 36,000 Sudanese refugees who wanted to return to Blue Nile and other areas after a 2005 peace deal ended two decades of civil war.

However, although South Sudan separated from Sudan as part of the agreement other aspects relating to Blue Nile and South Kordofan were not implemented before Southern secession in July 2011.

Following the huge repatriation operation during the period of the peace deal three refugee camps were shutdown in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia currently hosts more than 91,000 Sudanese refugees at three camps (Sherkole, Tongo & Bambasi) in Benishangul-Gumuz State and in one camp (Pugnido) in the Gambella State..

In addition to the Sudanese refugees, the horn of Africa nation also shelters more than 214,000 Somali refugees, 61,000 Eritreans and over 4,000 refugees from other African countries.

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