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Eritreans return home from Sudan

Briefing notes

Eritreans return home from Sudan

8 July 2003

In the last two and a half weeks, UNHCR has helped more than 1,400 of Africa's longest-standing refugees - Eritreans, some of whom have never even seen their homeland - return to their country. The Eritrean refugees, many born in exile since the 1960s, have returned to Eritrea in four convoys from refugee camps in eastern Sudan. The convoys began on June 23.

The fifth and last planned convoy of the season was scheduled to move today (July 8), taking home 240 refugees and their possessions before the rainy season starts in earnest.

Resumption of the convoys - suspended in July 2002 for last year's rainy season - had been delayed by eight months by border tensions between Sudan and Eritrea. The border area still remains closed to civilian traffic, but UNHCR managed to persuade the two governments to open a humanitarian corridor to allow the passage of return convoys.

Last Saturday's convoy took home 654 individuals in 15 passenger buses. They were accompanied by 50 trucks and 21 trailers carrying the refugees' possessions, in addition to four trucks that transported their livestock. It brought to 1,412 (in 578 families) the number of refugees who have returned home since June 23.