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Ethiopia: repatriation of Somalis resumes

Briefing notes

Ethiopia: repatriation of Somalis resumes

27 July 2001

UNHCR this morning resumed repatriation convoys aimed at bringing home nearly 28,000 Somali refugees from the Aware camps in eastern Ethiopia. A 25-truck convoy picked up 485 refugees from the remote camps for the first part of their return journey - a 60 kilometre stretch to the border. The first leg of the journey is, however, likely to take several hours because of poor road conditions. From the border, the refugees will board other trucks to the Somaliland town of Hargeisa - the drop-off point in the north-west.

A second convoy for some 1,000 refugees is planned for 29 July.

The latest convoy, the first since June, is the 142nd since UNHCR began the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees from eastern Ethiopia four years ago. With this week's return convoy, the total number of Somalis repatriated since 1997 has surpassed the 160,000 mark.

The refugees are given repatriation packages which include domestic supplies for every returning family and nine-months of food per returnee. The nine months of food works out to be 150 kgs of cereals, 10 kgs of pulses and 5 litres of oil. But the refugees have not carried all the food with them. Many have traded a portion of it for other items not included in the repatriation package. Others have bartered the food for several goats and sheep. Some have simply sold it for cash to aid their integration into communities they left some 13 years ago, or to pay off debts they may have incurred during their stay in the camps.

Some 27,650 refugees, mainly in Daror, one of the three Aware camps, have already registered to return to north-west Somalia, where nearly 26,000 refugees have so far returned this year. UNHCR expects to close Daror at the end of the return movements slated for completion before the end of the year.

Daror will be the third of eight camps for Somali refugees in Ethiopia to close this year. In June, UNHCR closed two other camps - Teferiber and Dawarnaje.