Ethiopia: voluntary repatriation of Somalis resumes
UNHCR today resumed voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees from Ethiopia. High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers, who is in Ethiopia, was at Camaboker refugee camp to see off the departing convoy carrying 1,500 refugees who volunteered to be repatriated to Northwest Somalia. These refugees are part of the 60,000 Somalis that UNHCR plans to repatriate by the end of this year. Another 10,000 Ethiopian nationals who had lived in Somalia prior to 1991 and who have been living in the Ethiopian refugee camps along with the Somali refugees, will be assisted to settle in their areas of origin.
Last year, UNHCR repatriated 43,467 refugees to Northwest Somalia, bringing the number of returnees to 125,572 Somali refugees since movement started in 1997. The office also assisted 8,026 Ethiopian nationals who had fled Somalia to return to their places of origin last year. An estimated 50,000 Ethiopians are receiving humanitarian assistance in Ethiopian refugee camps. Ethiopia hosted more than 1 million refugees in the 1990s and today it hosts 198,000, including 119,507 from Somalia. Some political stability has been established in Northwest Somalia and refugees who have been repatriated have successfully reintegrated in their place of origin. The situation in the south has remained unstable, however.
Those repatriated are provided with a reintegration package, including household goods and a cash grant.
Mr. Lubbers is visiting the East, Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes Region following a meeting of the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) conference held in Nairobi, Kenya, last week. He has so far visited refugee camps in Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi. He also met with the heads of states of these countries.
While in the region, the High Commissioner has also met UNHCR staff members. In Addis Ababa, he will meet with UNHCR country representatives from the region. He will then meet with the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi. His visit to the region ends on Thursday.