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Eritrea: repatriation moves into high gear

Briefing notes

Eritrea: repatriation moves into high gear

28 July 2000

UNHCR's repatriation programme for some 90,000 Eritrean refugees in Sudan moved into high gear today with the deployment of more than 100 trucks. Weather permitting, around 3,000 refugees are expected to return today to Eritrea from the camps at Gulsa, Lafa and Shagarab in Sudan's eastern state of Kassala. Heavy rains earlier this week slowed down convoys, turning sand tracks into mud pits. Since the repatriation programme started on Tuesday, 2,286 refugees have returned, mainly to Eritrea's Tesseney area.

The returnees are allowed to take back all belongings they had brought to Sudan when they fled ahead of Ethiopian forces on an offensive in May. Returning trucks are loaded with refrigerators, TV sets, mattresses and furniture. They also bring home blankets, plastic sheets and kitchen sets which UNHCR had distributed in the camps. A two-month food ration is distributed upon departure.

In Tesseney, the refugees are given tea and biscuits before they go home. In the past weeks, more shops have reopened in the area, following many spontaneous returns from Sudan and elsewhere inside Eritrea. There is a lot of destruction in Tesseney and people will have to start planting crops immediately if they want to take any advantage of this rainy season. There are security problems as well in the south-west of Eritrea, including the presence of land mines. Some areas are reportedly still occupied by Ethiopian forces and some returnees will have to remain in transit centres until the deployment of peacekeeping forces.