Home | News    Wednesday 19 November 2014

UNHCR begins relocating 15,000 S. Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia

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By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

November 18, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said it started relocating by boat some 15,000 South Sudan refugees stranded at the border for months after crossing into Ethiopia after fleeing fighting in the young nation.

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Ethiopia has witnessed a huge influx of South Sudanese refugees since conflict erupted in the young nation in December 2013 (AFP)

On Monday, a first group of 125 refugees left Matar way station in western Ethiopia and were expected to arrive at Pugnido refugee camp on Tuesday. Pugnido camp in Gambella region currently shelters about 45,000 refugees, mostly from South Sudan.

Two speed boats were used for the first round relocation operation, including one for transporting passengers and the other to carry luggage and their other belongings.

29 other refugees who need special attention, including the blind, pregnant women, nursing mothers and the elderly unable to travel by boat, will be flown by helicopter.
The refugees, UNHCR said, had been stranded at the borders close to South Sudan after the Nip Nip camp, to which they were initially heading, suddenly flooded as a result of heavy seasonal rains and the Baro River bursting its banks last August.

The refugees were provided water, high energy biscuits, and relief items such as blankets as they boarded the boats wearing life jackets.

The UNHCR will continue a similar relocation operation using the same route.

According to the UNHCR, about 100 South Sudanese refugees continue to cross into Ethiopia every day, mainly through the Burbiey border entry point from South Sudan’s Upper Nile and Jonglei states.

“The new arrivals cite insecurity, including sporadic fighting between rival warring factions amid food insecurity as reasons for their flight,” said UNHCR spokesperson Karin De Gruijl.

“A multi-agency response led by the government of Ethiopia and UNHCR is providing protection and assistance to these refugees,” added Gruijl.

Since conflict between South Sudan government forces and rebels led by former vice president Riek Machar broke out in mid–December 2013, more than 190,000 South Sudanese refugees have sought refuge in Ethiopia’s Gambella region.

Ethiopia is currently Africa’s largest refugee-hosting nation, with more than 600,000 refugees.

(ST)

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