KHARTOUM– After a decade of displacement, nearly 1,500 Sudanese refugees began to return voluntarily to their home village in Dafaq, South Darfur State, announced United Nations High Commissions for Refugees (UNHCR).

“On Tuesday Dec 12, the first 45 Sudanese refugees touched down in Nyala airport,” said the UNHCR in a statement.

The returnees will be hosted in a transit center for up to three days in the capital of South Darfur State before heading to their village, some 350 km from Nyala, according to the statement.

“The UNHCR welcomes the voluntary return of these refugees,” Noriko Yoshida, UNHCR’s representative in Sudan, said in the statement.

She further reiterated that the UNHCR and the Government’s Commission of Refugees (COR) would be monitoring the situation of the returnees closely.

“This repatriation exercise is guided by a formal Exchange of Letters between the government of Sudan and UNHCR, which incorporates international standards governing refugee returns, including the benefit of amnesties, as well as UNHCR’s role in monitoring the returns,” she said.

She went on saying that “to help the returnees re-establish their homes and livelihoods, they will have access to land, and UNHCR and COR will provide them with return packages.”

The UNHCR would also work with government authorities and other partners to enhance service provision in the return area, she added.

The UN official further reiterated that “returning to South Darfur is expected to be a lasting solution, as we continue to see security and development improvements across the region.”

In 2007, nearly 3,500 refugees fled from South Darfur during conflict between the Government of Sudan and armed groups.

“We decided to voluntarily return to Dafaq, one of our final destinations, because we are well informed that security has returned with the effective implementation of the disarmament of armed groups,” Ahmad, one of the leaders in Pladama Ouaka refugee camp, was quoted as saying the UNHCR’s statement.

“I am extremely happy to return home with my family after 10 years in exile,” he added.

In late November, the refugees expressed their willingness to return to Sudan when a UNHCR and government of Sudan delegation visited Pladama Ouaka camp, following an assessment of their desired return area, which was deemed to be safe.

According to the UNCHR, more than 650,000 Sudanese refugees are still displaced in other neighboring countries, including Chad and South Sudan.

On May 31, 2017, Sudan, Chad and the UNHCR signed a tripartite agreement opening the door for the voluntary return of more than 500,000 Sudanese refugees from Chad to Sudan and return of over 8,000 Chadian refugees from Sudan to Chad.

Around 592,000 Sudanese refugees are currently in Chad, 392,000 live in 13 refugee camps in eastern Chad, while the remaining 200,000 are in the border area and Chadian cities.