Sudan: preparations for screening of Ethiopian refugees
UNHCR is sending this week a team of 15 protection officers to Khartoum (Sudan) to prepare the screening of Ethiopian refugees who fled their country before 1991 and who now fall under the "cessation clause," declared on 1 March this year in all countries still hosting Ethiopian refugees. The protection officers will provide training to their 15 counterparts from the Sudanese Government, and then they will together carry out the screening process.
The operation follows the decision last September to withdraw blanket refugee status from Ethiopians who fled during the Mengistu regime, considering that conditions were now safe for them to repatriate. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have repatriated since that government collapsed in 1991, including 72,000 from Sudan and 80,000 from Kenya under UNHCR operations. Sudan still hosts the largest group of Ethiopians who left their country prior to 1991, with 12,000 in camps and perhaps twice as many in urban areas. So far, 1,200 Ethiopians in Sudan have appealed to have their cases reviewed. Their cases will be examined on an individual basis to determine if any have valid fears of persecution on return to Ethiopia. The screening exercise will start in November in Um Gulja, Um Rakuba and Tenedba refugee camps and is expected to last one month.
Meanwhile, more than 2,000 camp residents have registered for voluntary repatriation. That figure is expected to rise following the launch of a mass information campaign by Ethiopian officials and UNHCR this week. The campaign will explain the options available to refugees and describing current conditions in Ethiopia. A voluntary repatriation operation will begin in December. UNHCR assistance to the camps and urban centres will cease at the end of the year.