By Gladys Fred Kole
South Sudan 20th June joined the world in commemorating World Refugee Day, which is celebrated annually on the 20th of June.
UN refugee agency UNHCR marked the day at the Gorom refugee settlement on the outskirts of Juba city, where about 5,000 Sudanese refugees, including Eritreans and Ethiopians, are resettled.
This year’s World Refugee Day focuses on solutions for refugees and the power of inclusion, commemorated under the theme “Hope away from home.”
Speaking at the occasion, UNHCR country representative Marie Hellen discouraged refugees from giving up, citing that they are in safe hands here in South Sudan.
She encouraged refugees to invest in their lives, so that they are well integrated with the host communities as UNHRC and other partners strive to help them in their journey.
“South Sudan is so generous; refugees are even given freedom the same as nationals, so do the best for you and your family, don’t give up hope, and really invest here,” said Marie.
Meanwhile, the deputy commissioner of the Commission for Refugee Affairs in the country, John Dabi, said that South Sudan is the most peaceful now as he speaks.
He expressed that the country is ready to receive refugees who had fled to the neighboring countries due to the insecurities back.
“Our refugees outside are about 2.2 million people; let them come back; if they are still afraid, let them see those who are seeking protection, asylum, and safety in South Sudan,” he proclaimed.
“Their own country is safe, there’s no need for them to be out of South Sudan; they should come back quickly so that we can rebuild the country and the broken fabrics of the society in the villages,” he added.
Mr. Dabi also discourages South Sudanese from deserting their home villages for the city.
“It’s not necessary for them to come to the city; they should go to their villages and produce rather than receiving all the time,” he noted.
According to Mr. Dabi, Europeans are not giving enough money anymore to South Sudan because they have their own problems in Ukraine and Russia.”
For his part, Peter van der Auweraert, the humanitarian coordinator, applauded the government of South Sudan for its generosity.
He stated that refugees have come to one of the hospitable countries in the world, which serves as an example for the region and the world.
“When the war in Sudan started within 24 hours, the government of South Sudan said that they were not closing their borders; the doors were open for those fleeing conflict to be helped here,” Auweraert cited.
The importance of World Refugee Day is to show solidarity to the people who are forced to flee their countries because of internal wars.
According to the humanitarian coordinator, there are a lot of new people that are arriving, and our energy is focused on helping the South Sudanese that are returning.
The UN estimated that there are more than 125,000 people crossing the border from Sudan into South Sudan.
The South Sudanese refugee population, more than 65% of whom are children, remains extremely vulnerable.
This protracted situation is the largest refugee situation on the African continent.
Over 2.3 million refugees hosted in neighboring countries live in often precarious conditions, exacerbated by various factors such as extreme drought and food insecurity situation in the region and the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
About 90,000 South Sudanese have fled to neighboring countries since the beginning of 2022, while 87,000 returnees have been recorded.