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Djibouti: repatriation of Afars from Ethiopia begins

Briefing notes

Djibouti: repatriation of Afars from Ethiopia begins

29 October 2001

The repatriation from Ethiopia of some 600 Djiboutians of Afar ethnic origin begins today with a first group of over 200 people gathering at a transit centre in the north of Ethiopia, ahead of their departure for the border tomorrow morning.

Refugees from Djibouti fled to Ethiopia following the conflict between the Front for the Restoration for Unity and Democracy (FRUD) and the government of Djibouti in 1993-94. After a peace agreement was signed and a general amnesty declared in February 2001, UNHCR negotiated a voluntary repatriation agreement with the two countries.

Since then, UNHCR and the Ethiopian government refugee department have used radio messages to advise Djibouti refugees in the northern Afar region and Addis Ababa how and where to register if they wished to return home. Djibouti government officials travelled to Ethiopia in June this year to meet with the refugees, and elders from the group of exiles visited their home areas in Djibouti in September to judge conditions for themselves.

The refugees are mainly nomads and are returning to the Dikhil and Tajourah areas of Djibouti. Those from Tadjourah, in the north of the country, will spend another two nights in temporary UNHCR transit centres before reaching their home regions. Each returnee will receive a small cash grant, basic cooking and shelter items and nine months' food rations to help their reintegration. UNHCR will operate two more convoys during the first half of November to complete the repatriation of the group.