KHARTOUM, Sudan, December 19, 2017–More than 4,000 Chadian refugees are ready to return to their home country after seeking refuge in Darfur for more than a decade. On 18 December 2018 UNHCR and the Governments of Sudan and Chad began assisting the refugees with transportation and return packages. The first convoy, including some 301 refugee, has left Um Shalya camp in Central Darfur State heading to Chad.
“After ten years in Darfur we called on the authorities to help us to return home safely and in dignity in order to lead stable lives and cultivate our lands”, explained Osman Harun Abdallah, one of the refugee leaders from Um Shalaya camp in Central Darfur. “We have been waiting for this day for a long time. We have been thinking of home day and night”.
“I thank the people of Darfur for hosting us for more than ten years. We have the same traditions and cultures and we never felt like strangers here”, continued Mr. Abdullah.
Initially nearly 1,000 refugees are expected to return by the end of the year to Moudeina, in Sila region of Eastern Chad. Up to 4,000 refugees are planned to return in 2018 to other locations in the country.
“UNHCR is supporting both governments to ensure that refugees are well prepared for the return and reintegration process and that both their legal and physical protection needs are met”, explained Ms. Noriko Yoshida, Representative of UNHCR Sudan. “We also wish to extend our appreciation to the Government of Sudan and the host communities for their generosity towards the refugees”.
Transportation will be provided to the refugees from Central Darfur to Chad, along with return packages to help them re-establish their homes and livelihoods. UNHCR, the Government of Chad, and other partners will also work together to enhance service provision in the return areas.
Since the outbreak of violence in Chad from 2005 to 2007, Darfur has been hosting refugees from neighboring parts of the country. Over the last decade, UNHCR and partners have worked with the Government of Sudan to provide refugees with protection and assistance, including the establishment of two refugee camps in Central Darfur. More than 8,800 individuals still remain in the camps, half of which are now opting to return to Chad.
In May of this year, a tripartite agreement was signed by the Governments of both countries and UNHCR, which provides the legal framework for voluntary repatriation for Chadian refugees who wish to return to their country.
Returning to Chad is expected to be a lasting solution for these refugees as the security situation is permissive. The Government of Chad launched a new National Development Plan (NDP) in September 2017, which has so far attracted more than 10 billion USD in financial pledges from the international community. Now in its early stages of implementation, the plan aims to strengthen the economy while providing all citizens with access to water, health, housing, energy and mobility.
Chadian refugees who chose to remain in Darfur will continue to benefit from the principles of international protection.
Chad is itself an important refugee host country with over 300,000 people from Darfur living in camps in the east of the country.