Sudan: 50th Eritrean return convoy to leave Sunday
The 50th return convoy carrying Eritrean refugees home from Sudan is expected to leave the Sudanese town of Kassala on Sunday. The convoy is expected to carry 1,500 returnees, bringing the total repatriated since last spring to 36,500.
UNHCR began the repatriation in May 2001. It was suspended for about three months during the rainy season, resuming in October. Immediately after the resumption, the number of returnee volunteers had been lower than hoped, but began picking up again in recent weeks. On December 31, some 3,200 Eritreans boarded the largest convoy to date, prompting UNHCR and the Sudanese and Eritrean governments to make arrangements for two convoys each week.
In addition to overland convoys to the eastern Eritrean town of Tesseney, UNHCR has taken returnees home by sea from camps in Port Sudan to the Eritrean port of Massawa.
The repatriation is planned to continue until December, ending one of UNHCR's longest-running refugee situations. Some of the returnees have been in exile for three decades. There are still around 140,000 Eritrean refugees living in 23 camps in Sudan
All returning Eritreans receive a cash grant as well as a two-month food package, household supplies and a metal and canvas family shelter kit. UNHCR also gives them hand tools for farming. Local authorities are giving families mine-awareness training and up to two hectares of arable land. UNHCR staff monitoring the reintegration process have noted that the majority of returnees are able to begin farming immediately and anticipate more large returns before the next planting season.