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Djibouti/Ethiopia: voluntary repatriation completed

Briefing notes

Djibouti/Ethiopia: voluntary repatriation completed

9 May 2000

On Saturday, 6 May, a UNHCR-organized train carrying Ethiopians homeward from Djibouti left Dire Dawa with 909 returnees on board. It was the second such movement, following the repatriation of 820 Ethiopians on 4 May, and successfully ended the return operation.

Djibouti becomes the first country to complete the voluntary repatriation of pre-1991 groups of Ethiopian refugees. UNHCR announced last September the withdrawal of blanket refugee status from Ethiopians who fled during the Mengistu regime.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees have repatriated since that government collapsed in 1991, including 72,000 from Sudan and 80,000 from Kenya in UNHCR operations.

The cessation clause was applied in all countries on 1 March this year. Ethiopians in neighbouring states who have not chosen to repatriate or who do not come forward with a valid claim for continued refugee status will no longer be entitled to international protection. UNHCR has appealed to host governments to allow Ethiopians who will lose their refugee status to stay in the countries and regularize their status.

Sudan hosts the largest group of Ethiopians who left the country prior to 1991, with 12,000 in camps and as many as twice that number in urban areas. So far, more than 3,700 Ethiopians have registered to return home since last year's decision. An Ethiopian government team is currently in Sudan reviewing the lists of volunteers and working with UNHCR on arrangements for the repatriation operation, which should begin next month.

Around 1,200 Ethiopians have approached UNHCR to be allowed to stay in Sudan as refugees. Each case will be reviewed and screened by refugee agency protection staff.