Sudanese refugee representatives in the Central African Republic (CAR) were flown by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, to their homes in Western Equatoria State on a five-day fact-finding visit ahead of the repatriation of hundreds of thousand of their compatriots from neighbouring countries by the end November, the agency said on Friday.
The representatives, two men and two women, "flew from Mboki Camp in CAR to Tambura in the western part of south Sudan, and then were warmly welcomed," UNHCR said in its Friday statement. They returned to the CAR on Wednesday.
"Local officials from Tambura accompanied the refugees back to Mboki in CAR and appealed to the camp residents to return to Sudan to help rebuild their country," UNHCR said.
They returned to Mboki on Wednesday.
The refugee representatives said they were positive about the prospect of returning, despite the poor infrastructure and the lack of health and educational facilities.
UNHCR plans to begin return flights for 12,400 refugees from Mboki to Tambura town before the end of November. It said there were 36,000 south Sudanese refugees in CAR, and some 500,000 in other neighbouring countries.
There were also four million displaced persons in Sudan.
UNHCR said in the coming months it would set up offices in Kapotea, Bor and Nasir in the east of south Sudan in preparation for the return of 90,000 Sudanese refugees from Ethiopia and 65,000 from Kenya.
"A roving team based in Juba will set up way stations for the refugees to stay during the return voyage," the agency said.
UNHCR said its operation in south Sudan was substantially underfunded. It requires $76.3 million but, so far, $39 million was available.