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Eritrea: UNHCR to resume work

Briefing notes

Eritrea: UNHCR to resume work

25 January 2000

UNHCR and the Eritrean authorities agreed on Monday that UNHCR will resume its work in Eritrea after being absent for more than two and a half years.

During meetings of Eritrea's President Esais Afwerki and other Eritrean officials with visiting UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner Søren Jessen-Petersen, it was agreed that UNHCR will focus on the voluntary repatriation of some 147,000 Eritreans registered in refugee camps in eastern Sudan. Two UNHCR staff will travel to Eritrea next month to work with the authorities on a repatriation plan. More UNHCR staff will follow. The return plan and the pace of the repatriation will be determined by Eritrea's reception capacity.

UNHCR international staff were expelled from Eritrea in May of 1997 over what Eritrea at the time saw as UNHCR's undue pressure on reviving the stalemated repatriation of Eritrean refugees from eastern Sudan.

The new agreement could lead to a breakthrough on the repatriation issue, allowing Eritreans from Sudan to go home after more than 10 years in exile.