Feb 27, 2006 (ADDIS ABABA) — The governments of Ethiopia and Sudan and the UN refugee agency UNHCR on Monday signed a crucial tripartite agreement, which will clear the way for the return home of over 70,000 Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia.
Tekeda Alemu, state minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, Brigadier Aleu Ayieny Aleu, state minister of interior of Sudan and Jean-Marie Fakhouri, UNHCR’s director of operations for the Sudan situation, signed the agreement in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
Monday’s tripartite agreement sets out the roles and obligations of each of the three partners in helping South Sudanese refugees go home from Ethiopia.
All sides agreed, for example, that any returns should be voluntary, and Sudan pledged to ensure that refugees can return in safety and dignity. Ethiopia pledged to continue to safeguard the rights of refugees who decide to stay in Ethiopia for now. UNHCR will ensure that logistical, assistance and protection requirements of the voluntary repatriants are in place and their access to basic services and livelihood are met.
The first Sudanese refugees came to Ethiopia in 1969 and went back home following the signing of the Addis Ababa agreement in February 1972. Successive waves of Sudanese refugees followed in 1983 and in the early 1990s.
Ethiopia currently hosts 73,774 Sudanese refugees in five camps in the western regions of Gambella and Benshangul-Gumuz.