Ethiopian refugees sheltering at the Gorom refugee settlement of Juba are urging the government and the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of elderly people back to Ethiopia.
The calls were made last week during a visit to the camp by South Sudan's Minister of Interior Mahmoud Solomon, Commissioner for Refugee Affairs and UNHCR Deputy Country Representative in South Sudan.
The Camp Chairman, Ojullu Ochan Ochan told the delegation that the environment has become toxic for their lives due to the presence of cattle herders that have continued to destroy their farmlands.
“We have the issue of migration of cattle keepers near us, and near our farmland which is a serious threat affecting our farming activities. This resulted in no cultivation last year by both refugees and host communities in this area,” Ochan said.
Ochan stated that reduction in food ration and lack of shelter are some of the reasons forcing the refugees to seek other alternatives.
He also requested UNHCR and the government to formulate a policy that will allow permanent settlement for people who do not want to return to Ethiopia.
“We also ask your office to interview those who want to be integrated into South Sudan communities," he added.
For his part, the Minister of Interior, Mahmoud Solomon Agok pledged that his office will ensure the safety and welfare of the refugees is observed.
"For us in the ministry of interior, your welfare, your life is under us. We must make sure that you are in a safe place with good security,” he said.
“We must ensure that UNHCR and other NGOs that are in the camp here are supplying you with food, health services, education and other essential services," he added.
Minister Mahmoud said the government will coordinate with refugee agencies in the country to look into the issue of repatriation.
“We will try to coordinate with relevant authorities such that they go back home safely and meet with their relatives."
Lt.Gen. Bol John Akot, Commissioner for the Commission for Refugees Affairs in South Sudan, said a special police unit will be deployed to keep the security of the refugees in the area.
"We are going to solve these complaints with those of UNHCR and the minister of interior and the commissioner for refugees,” he said.
The refugees were relocated from Pochalla to Lologo and Gorom areas in Juba before South Sudan gained its independence in 2011.
According to the UNHCR, the Gorom refugee settlement camp which was established in 2010 has 200,020 refugees.
The courtesy visit led by the Minister of Interior, Commissioner for Refugee Affairs and UNHCR was meant to strengthen partnerships, foster stronger cooperation among different interlocutors, and enhance security conditions. Radio Tamazuj