Eritrea: meeting on returns from Sudan
A two-day meeting opened in Geneva on Thursday to discuss the return home from Sudan of more than 300,000 Eritrean refugees affected by UNHCR's decision to end refugee status for all Eritrean refugees. Representatives of the governments of Sudan and Eritrea, and UNHCR are attending the tripartite meeting - the seventh in a series of meetings convened regularly to assess progress in a major repatriation operation from Sudan which was started in May 2001. However, this is the first time the three parties are meeting following UNHCR's announcement of cessation of refugee status to Eritrean refugees all over the world.
UNHCR expects to reach an agreement with both governments on the cut-off dates for registration of returnees, both in camps as well as in urban centres, and the completion date for all return convoys. The meeting is also expected to reach agreements on return packages for urban-based refugees who had not been included in the return plan until May this year, when we announced the termination of refugee status.
UNHCR has assisted the return of nearly 50,000 Eritrean refugees since it began a voluntary repatriation operation in May last year. Nearly 15,000 others who have registered are waiting to return to their homes, mainly in Eritrea's Gash Barka region.
Early last month, UNHCR announced that it was ending refugee status for all Eritreans who fled their country as a result of war of independence or the recent border conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The worldwide cessation will take effect on December 31.