Ethiopia relocates over 50,000 South Sudanese refugees

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Addis Ababa, 31 March 2014 (WIC) - The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has 52,323 South Sudanese refugees in Gambella region of Ethiopia.

According to newbusinessethiopia.com,   the daily movement of the refugees by boat reached 450 people.

Since the eruption of violence in the capital of the Republic of South Sudan between government-led forces and rebel factions in December, the total number of refugees IOM has transported to refugee camps within Ethiopia is over 52,323 individuals.

Everyday, refugees are relocated to Fugnido, Leitchor or Kule (former Tierkidi) refugee camps in Gambella to receive services, including shelter and food.

So far over 75,000 South Sudanese refugees have crossed to Ethiopia flying from the self inflicted war in their new country.

Most of the camps are quickly reaching the maximum capacity of refugees that can be hosted. In addition, Leitchor camp is situated in a known flood zone, thus, it is critical to identify and establish new camps. With thousands of asylum seekers pouring into Pagak and Akobo entry points, IOM’s transportation assistance will continue.

The UNHCR representative, Mr. Moses Okello commented during the visit of the delegates in Gambella in mid March that the majority of the asylum seekers are women and children. Most of the refugees walked for seven to 10 days with very limited personal belongings.

Many of them travel by foot, surviving only on wild fruits. Stories from refugees reveal that many families were separated amidst chaos in South Sudan.

Ojulu Obutha, 36 Years old a community leader in Akobo Town (South Sudan) was separated from his wife and children. He stayed behind while his wife and children crossed over to Akobo-Tergol on December 18, 2013.

He remained behind hoping that the situation will calm down and wait for their return. As the war continued and the rebels started looting, he decided to flee to Gambella.

He stated, “They were fighting in Denaka area and when they came back, they started looting Akobo Town... My friend and I were the last Agnuaks who stayed in Akobo town in South Sudan.”

While talking to IOM, Obutha expressed his hopes of reuniting with his wife. “When the fighting started, a lot of women crossed over by foot. I don’t know where my wife is. There is no network but I am hopeful that she is waiting for me in Fugnido,” he said after getting registered at IOM’s pre-embarkation check, a day before the boat relocation.

Obutha has been a refugee in Gambella fleeing prior conflict as well. But he was repatriated after the situation calmed down. As the recent war made him repeat the same path, he hopes that there will be peace so that he can return home with his family.