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Sudan: rains force suspension of Eritrean repatriation

Briefing notes

Sudan: rains force suspension of Eritrean repatriation

20 July 2001

UNHCR suspended the repatriation of more than 174,000 Eritrean refugees in Sudan after heavy rains completely cut off some roads from camps in western Sudan. The rains turned dry riverbeds into swollen streams and have rendered various road crossings in western Sudan impassable. In Eritrea, the Gash River has also risen and is flooding onto the flat plains of the Gash Barka area, where the majority of refugees are returning.

Since the start of the return operation on May 12, UNHCR has helped nearly 21,000 refugees to return to homes that many of them left more than three decades ago. More than 28,000 refugees in 12 of the 23 camps in western Sudan have registered to repatriate. The repatriation operation is expected pick up again at the end of the rainy season in early September. UNHCR expects to aid the return of another 40,000 refugees before the end of the year.

In the meantime, UNHCR is continuing the registration for repatriation of Eritrean refugees living in Port Sudan on the Red Sea. We expect to use a ship to repatriate the refugees by sea from Port Sudan to the Eritrean port of Masawa. There are around 4,000 Eritrean refugees living in camps in Port Sudan with thousands more in the town itself, according to government figures.

On Wednesday, UNHCR met with Eritrean authorities in Asmara to review the integration of the returnees. Authorities report that some villages in the Gerset and Aklelet areas have experienced more than 100 per cent growth, placing great pressure on health and water facilities in these areas. UNHCR and the Eritrean government agreed to set up a technical committee to work with local authorities who will implement projects to meet the immediate short-term needs of returning populations. UNHCR hopes that other development agencies will also step in to meet longer-term development needs.