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Sudan: first Eritreans arrive home by sea

Briefing notes

Sudan: first Eritreans arrive home by sea

7 December 2001

The first group of Eritrean refugees to repatriate by sea from Sudan arrived this morning in the Eritrea's Red Sea port of Massawa. The 56 returning families (116 individuals) who set off from Port Sudan on Wednesday evening were accompanied by UNHCR staff and officials from the governments of Sudan and Eritrea.

About 2,000 Eritrean refugees in Port Sudan's four camps have registered for repatriation. Most will return next year with those refugees whose home areas are in the eastern parts of Eritrea returning by sea to Massawa.

Yesterday, the 31st convoy operated by UNHCR since the repatriation started in May carried 100 Eritreans home from Um Sagata and Hawata camps in Sudan's eastern state. After an unavoidable three-month delay due to seasonal rains, the repatriation resumed in late October. Turn-out for the departing trucks has been lower than expected, possibly due to the beginning of Ramadan and the fact that many refugees are waiting to harvest crops they have planted in Sudan.

The two movements this week brought the total number of returnees to over 26,900. There are still almost 150,000 Eritrean refugees living in 23 camps in Sudan.