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Horn of Africa: dry weather aids Eritrean return

Briefing notes

Horn of Africa: dry weather aids Eritrean return

4 August 2000

Dry weather this week has aided the return of Eritrean refugees from Sudan, a programme which began on July 25. The rains have subsided for the past four days in Sudan's eastern state of Kassala, making it easier for heavily-loaded trucks to travel. People are still packing their belongings onto the trucks, including small livestock and chickens, as well as cooking utensils, blankets and tents or plastic sheets that they received in the camps in Sudan.

As of yesterday (3 August), a total of 16,746 people (4,844 families) have returned to Eritrea, mainly farmers from the Nara and Kunama tribes who want to try and do some planting before the rainy season is over. They are returning to areas judged safe in south-western parts of Eritrea, including Tesseney, Guluj, Talatasher, Ghergef and Telebdia.

Today, convoys are scheduled to leave from Lafa and Gulsa, while 100 trucks are on stand-by in Shagarab to depart tomorrow. The camp of Shagarab, 70 km from the border, looks nearly empty as a good portion of the people who had registered to go have already returned. In Lafa, from where a lot of spontaneous returns took place, and Gulsa, UNHCR expects that a certain number of people will now wait a little longer before they return, possibly until the end of the rainy season. This is especially true for single mothers with children, people coming from Om Hajer and other parts of southern Eritrea still occupied by Ethiopian troops, or people who are concerned about security. As long as the roads remain passable, UNHCR will continue keeping trucks available to provide transport to those wishing to return. Some 90,000 Eritreans fled to Sudan after fighting erupted in mid-May between Eritrea and Ethiopia.