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Preparations for a meeting on repatriation in Eritrea

Briefing notes

Preparations for a meeting on repatriation in Eritrea

11 July 2000

UNHCR together with the Eritrean and Sudanese governments will be meeting in Asmara on Friday and Saturday to review plans for the possible repatriation of the some 90,000 refugees who have arrived in Sudan since May.

Relief agencies in Eritrea have released new figures listing some 400,000 displaced persons currently concentrated in 28 IDP sites around the country. Many more are believed to be sheltered by family or friends or are just living in the valleys and hillsides. Meanwhile, a regular number of IDPs are reported to return. About 25 families (average of 125 individuals) are reported returning from Lafa in Sudan to Eritrea each day, through Talatashar border crossing. Lafa is the closest camp to the damaged town of Tesseney and is still hosting some 40,000 refugees.

The withdrawal of Ethiopian forces from parts of Eritrea's south central Debub zone is bringing with it some returns to the Adi Keih, Mai Aini and Adi Quala regions, though many IDPs are still unwilling to leave the safety of their encampments, like the cliffside Zula camp, for fear that hostilities may resume.

The population of the overcrowded Slina camp south of Asmara has dropped from more than 68,000 to some 21,000 as people start to venture home to check on the condition of their belongings.

Last week 25,000 individuals have been relocated from Debat camp to Mekete camp north of Keren mainly for health concerns as Debat has a high malaria risk.

Shelter remains a major problem in Eritrea's IDP camps. About 500 shelter kits received from Copenhagen have been successfully deployed and mounted in Mekete. UNHCR has also secured the supply of additional 6,000 kits from local suppliers. Winds are so high in some areas that tents are being torn and UNHCR has teams of carpenters working with IDPs to assemble shelters using the wood poles. Shipments of stocked items from Albania are continuing with 8 containers of non-food items leaving this week.