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Eritrea: repatriation from Sudan stepped up

Briefing notes

Eritrea: repatriation from Sudan stepped up

22 June 2001

UNHCR today dispatched the largest convoy since the start on May 12 of a major operation to return home over 170,000 Eritrean refugees from neighbouring Sudan. In a stepped-up movement ahead of the long rainy season, 2,105 refugees boarded trucks this morning from Sudan's eastern camp of Gadaref for a two-day journey to Tesseney, western Eritrea.

UNHCR launched this voluntary repatriation with twice-weekly convoys of 1,000 refugees each and gradually increased capacity to 2,000 per convoy. The returnees in today's convoy will spend the night in a transit camp in Girba, close to Sudan's eastern border, before proceeding to the Eritrean Talatasher border post. In Eritrea, they will be received in the western town of Tesseney from where they will be transported to their final destinations. Some of the returnees have lived in exile for more than 20 years and have no homes to return to. Eritrean authorities are allocating land to this group of returnees. Where available, families have received up to two hectares of arable land in Gash Barka Zone, where the majority of refugees are returning to.

Since the beginning of the operation UNHCR has assisted 14,500 refugees to return home. This figure includes refugees who fled the Eritrea/Ethiopian war last year. As many as 27,000 refugees have so far volunteered for repatriation. UNHCR plans to repatriate 20,000 Eritreans by the beginning of July when the rains will likely make it difficult for trucks to travel on the unpaved roads. UNHCR plans to repatriate 62,000 Eritreans by the end of this year.