Of 500 Sudanese on the first convoy, an astonishing 319 were under the age of 17, all born in exile. Return to south Sudan became possible after the January, 2005 signing of a peace accord that ended a 21-year north-south civil war. UNHCR has begun helping refugees go home from Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic and Ethiopia, although some returns have been put on hold because of insecurity in parts of south Sudan.
The 500 refugees set out from Bonga refugee camp in the Gambella region of Ethiopia on Friday, and spent three nights at way stations on the exhausting 820-km-long road before reaching the border town of Kurmuk on Monday morning, when the first 150 returnees crossed the border.
The remainder of the refugees are still crossing the border in smaller groups, staggered so as not to overwhelm the reception centre at Chali El Fiel in south Sudan.
. "There is no place like home," was the familiar refrain from many of the returnees.