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Somalia: refugees repatriate from Eritrea

Briefing notes

Somalia: refugees repatriate from Eritrea

19 June 2001

Somali refugees will repatriate from Eritrea for the first time tomorrow, Wednesday, when 57 volunteers board a UNHCR-chartered aircraft in Asmara for a flight to the Somali capital, Mogadishu. The 25 families registered to take Wednesday's flight are among 1,230 Somali refugees who have asked UNHCR to help repatriate them. They represent almost all of the Somali refugees in Eritrea who have been in the country since the early 1990s. At the end of 2000, there were 1,253 refugees in Eritrea.

All the returnees are from the Mogadishu area. Before leaving Eritrea, each returnee will receive a cash grant to aid their reintegration in Somalia. Authorities in the Somali Transitional National Government have given UNHCR clearance and pledged co-operation for the operation.

The repatriation from Eritrea is the second to Mogadishu this year, illustrating the growing interest among Somali exiles to repatriate since the installation of the temporary government. UNHCR also returned 117 refugees from Yemen by air in April this year. Some 2,800 refugees who remain in Yemen are expected to return by boat before the end of the year. Two-thirds of the group will be returning to Mogadishu. In addition, around 7,700 Somalis in camps in Kenya have told UNHCR that they would like to repatriate, mostly to areas of southern Somalia, including the capital.

UNHCR cares for 281,423 Somali refugees in the region of the Horn with the largest number (137,000) in Kenya.