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Horn of Africa: Eritreans trickling home

Briefing notes

Horn of Africa: Eritreans trickling home

27 June 2000

Over the past few days, Eritreans have been trickling back home from refugee camps in Sudan, despite a very difficult humanitarian situation in western Eritrea. UNHCR staff, who monitor crossing points, report that those going back say they heard that the Ethiopians are gone and that it is now safe to return. It is difficult to determine how many of the 94,000 Eritrean refugees registered in Sudan to date have gone back since the truce was announced more than one week ago, as many returnees use unofficial crossing points. Estimates vary from several hundred to several thousand. At the same time, a few hundred new Eritrean refugees arrived in Sudan over the past few days in search of food and water. An almost complete lack of food and other relief supplies in western Eritrea makes many reluctant to return.

People returning to the Tesseney and Talatashar areas of Eritrea are believed to be mainly shop owners and farmers. Both towns are reported to have running water and electricity again. Meanwhile, rains have started to fall in the border region and roads are gradually turning into mud, further complicating the logistics of the relief operation.

UNHCR yesterday (Monday) handed over 11 heavy trucks to the Eritrean Relief and Refugee Commission (ERREC) to boost local capacity to deliver emergency relief aid to both displaced people and returning refugees. The heavy trucks include five water tankers and six tipper trucks, plus two additional light vehicles. Yesterday's hand-over brings to 51 the number of UNHCR-supplied heavy vehicles currently operated by ERREC.