KHARTOUM, May 31 (Xinhua) -- A tripartite agreement on the voluntary repatriation of Sudanese refugees from Chad and Chadian refugees from Sudan was signed on Wednesday by Sudan, Chad and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
Sudan's State Minister at the Ministry of Interior, Babiker Ahmed Digna, Chadian Minister of the State Ministry of Land Administration and Local Government, Aboubakar Djibrile Aboubakar and UNHCR Representative in Sudan Noriko Yoshida all signed the agreement.
"The agreement aims to facilitate the repatriation of Sudanese refugees from Chad and Chadian refugees from Sudan," said Babiker Ahmed Digna, Sudan's state minister at the Ministry of Interior, addressing the signing ceremony on Wednesday.
Aboubakar Djibrile Aboubakar, Chadian minister of the state ministry of land administration and local government, vowed that his country would continue its efforts toward providing protection for thousands of Sudanese refugees on its territories.
Addressing the signing ceremony, UNHCR representative in Sudan Noriko Yoshida, explained that the agreement did not set a return time limit, stressing that the program depends on existing conditions and guarantees the safety and dignity of returnees.
She further reiterated that return would be voluntarily, saying "no one will be forced to repatriate against his or her will."
Meanwhile, the three parties issued a joint statement after signing the agreement, noting that "the agreements signed today represent internationally accepted legal standards that govern the voluntary repatriation of refugees which all the parties are fully committed to."
The statement added that the formal signing of the agreements is important as it lays out the legal framework thus ensuring that refugee returns are strictly voluntary in nature.
The joint statement further noted that signing the agreements alone does not mean that assisted return movements will begin immediately, pointing out there is still work to be done by the tripartite commissions.
The work still to be conducted by the tripartite commissions involves overseeing the implementation of the agreements, to ensure that returns occur under conditions of safety and dignity as well as ensuring they are lasting returns, said the statement.
In this context the parties decided to formalize the repatriation framework which has been informed by the freely expressed wishes of returnees, or those who expressed assistance to return, the statement said.
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 Chadian border with some in Chadian cities.
In addition, about 8,500 Chadian refugees are in Sudan's territories, living in the Um Shalaya and Mukjar refugee camps in Sudan's Central Darfur.