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North-west Somalia: over 9,000 have returned since July

Briefing notes

North-west Somalia: over 9,000 have returned since July

3 October 2003

More than 9,000 Somali refugees have returned home to North-west Somalia (also called Somaliland) from Ethiopia in six convoys since UNHCR resumed its voluntary repatriation in July. The most recent convoy, on 30 September, saw 1,431 individuals leave Hartisheik camp for Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland.

UNHCR provided the returnees with kerosene stoves, blankets, plastic sheets, and a transportation allowance to help them reach their final destinations. The World Food Programme (WFP) provided each returnee with food to last nine months.

Since the voluntary repatriation programme began in November, 1997, some 300,000 Somalis signed up for help in going home to Somaliland, and 214,232 have actually done so.

This leaves 31,253 Somali refugees at the three camps in Eastern Ethiopia - Aisha, Hartisheik and Kebribeyah. Many of them arrived in 1988, during Somaliland's war of secession. Hundreds of thousands more fled following the collapse of the Siad Barre regime in Somalia and the ensuing outbreak of civil war. UNHCR plans to close Aisha and Kebribeyah camps by the end of this year - provided refugees are willing to repatriate voluntarily and WFP receives enough money from donors to give the returnees food packages. The remaining refugees will be transferred to the only remaining camp, Hartisheik.