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Sudan: next phase in Eritrean repatriation operation

Briefing notes

Sudan: next phase in Eritrean repatriation operation

11 May 2001

An operation to repatriate Eritrean refugees moves into the next phase tomorrow, May 12, when the first convoy leaves Lafa camp in Sudan's Kassala state for the UNHCR transit centre in Tesseney, western Eritrea. Over 1,000 people are expected to board some 45 trucks for the 40-km first leg of their trip home.

UNHCR began registering volunteers for repatriation two weeks ago. Through yesterday, nearly 16,000 Eritrean refugees had signed up, including 6,100 who have registered for a second time after returns arranged last year were suspended due to fighting between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

This morning, passengers for tomorrow's convoys were loading their belongings on trucks. They will receive a two-month food ration. A complete UNHCR reintegration package including a cash grant will be given to returnees on arrival. UNHCR will operate roughly two convoys a week until July when seasonal heavy rains are expected to slow the operation. There are about 174,000 Eritrean refugees in camps in Sudan. Some of the refugees have spent more than three decades in exile, having fled present-day Eritrea as early as 1967.