Sudan: 13,000+ Ethiopians opt for repatriation
More than 13,000 Ethiopian refugees in Sudan have volunteered for repatriation. UNHCR will repatriate 4,500 of them before the end of the year. The first convoy, carrying about 1,000 returnees, leaves Sudan tomorrow (Wednesday, December 20).
The operation follows the decision last September to withdraw blanket refugee status from Ethiopians who fled during the Mengistu regime. UNHCR maintains that the conditions that drove the refugees into exile have changed since that government collapsed in 1991. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have been repatriated since the collapse of the Mengistu regime, including 72,000 from Sudan and 80,000 from Kenya, in UNHCR operations.
Sudan hosts the largest group of Ethiopians who left the country prior to 1991, with 12,000 still living in camps and perhaps twice as many in urban areas.
People started volunteering for repatriation in large numbers following a UNHCR mass information campaign in Um Gulja, Um Rakuba, and Tenedba refugee camps. The campaign included visits by Ethiopian government officials in October. They explained the options available to refugees and described current conditions in Ethiopia. A total of 2,500 refugees are still reluctant to go and have registered for a further screening, where they will be able to explain their reasons.
Returnees have also been promised arable land on their return. Each returnee will receive a nine-month food ration, a cash reintegration grant and basic household supplies.