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Sudan: Eritrean returns to resume after rains

Briefing notes

Sudan: Eritrean returns to resume after rains

14 October 2003

UNHCR is set to resume tomorrow (Wednesday) the return of about 36,000 Eritrean refugees who have registered to go home from camps mainly in eastern Sudan. The movement was suspended on July 8 because of the long rainy season, which hampers road travel in many parts of eastern Sudan - an area which is hosting some 100,000 Eritrean refugees. The rainy season in Sudan officially ends tomorrow, October 15.

Registration of the first group of 67 families expected to leave on the initial convoy was completed yesterday (Monday). This represents 134 people living in several sites near Sudan's eastern border with Eritrea. This morning, the families were to be transported from their camps to a transit centre at El Girba, 100 km from the border. They will spend their last night on Sudanese soil in El Girba before proceeding to the border town of Kassala early Wednesday morning and on to a border location called Check Point 14. Here, they will be transferred onto waiting Eritrean buses and trucks. This first convoy is expected to cross the Sudan-Eritrea border by 10 a.m. local time on Wednesday.

Once inside Eritrea, the refugees will be dropped off at a transit centre in the border town of Tesseney, where they will receive a cash grant, basic household supplies and three-months of food provided by the World Food Programme. From Tesseney, they will make their own way to their villages of origin, mainly in the nearby Gash-Barka region, south-western Eritrea.

We expect to have convoys every fourth day from Sudan to Eritrea. Since May 2001, some 103,000 Eritrean refugees have returned from Sudan, more than 50,000 of them with UNHCR assistance.

Meanwhile, UNHCR will on Thursday hand over six sites vacated by refugees to authorities in the state of Gadaref, some 400 km south-east of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. More than 3,600 refugees who lived in the six sites have either repatriated or have been transferred to Um Gargour as part of a camp consolidation exercise carried out in June. The six sites are Mafaza, Hawata, Wad Awad, Um Sagata, Um Brush and Zarzour. Among the infrastructure that will be handed over to Sudanese authorities on Thursday is a hospital ward built by UNHCR at Gadaref hospital, water facilities in the vacated sites, and 1,300 desks to support local schools in the area.