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Horn of Africa Update

Horn of Africa Update

18 June 2000

UNHCR officials in both Asmara and Khartoum on Sunday welcomed the signing of a peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea in Algiers, expressing hope that the peace deal will allow refugees and the displaced people to return home. "From the humanitarian point of view it is now essential that the agreement is honoured on the ground," said Tahir Ali, UNHCR's top official in Asmara.

The latest bout of fighting between Eritrea and Ethiopia has caused large scale displacement within Eritrea and has driven drove more than 80,000 people into neighbouring Sudan, putting a huge new strain on the impoverished and drought-stricken region. The new war also put on hold UNHCR's plans to repatriate some 150,000 old Eritrean refugees from Sudan.

Meanwhile, UNHCR and the Eritrean authorities on Sunday evacuated 1,228 Somali refugee's from Eritrea's southern port of Assab on the Red Sea to a transit centre outside Massawa - another Red Sea port, some 500 kms north west of Assab. The Somalis had been stuck in Assab virtually cut off from aid since fighting broke out between Ethiopia and Eritrea in mid-May. The 1,228 boarded a ship on Saturday and arrived in Massawa at 07:00 am local time Sunday, after a 29 hour-long overnight voyage across the Red Sea. They were taken to the nearby transit centre of Emkulu. 100 Somalis decided to stay behind in Assab.

Also on Sunday, UNHCR began the latest in a series of airlifts into Eritrea's capital Asmara. Four Boeings 707 over the next four days are scheduled to bring blankets and other supplies to Eritrea.

Another airlift flight from Copenhagen and Cairo arrived in Sudan's capital Khartoum Sunday carrying 5 hospital tents, plastic sheeting, blankets and 2 rubbhalls.

In Sudan, UNHCR staff say they have now registered more than 85,000 refugees from Eritrea in the Kassala province which borders on Eritrea. A number of people are also hiding in the bush on the Eritrean side of the border. Some refugees have told UNHCR they will return home only after the Ethiopian forces have withdrawn.