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UN refugee agency resumes repatriation of Eritreans from Sudan

UNHCR said it reached an agreement with the governments of Eritrea and Sudan to open a humanitarian corridor and enable return convoys to pass, after the border was closed following several months of tension. Under the terms of the resumed operation, Sudanese trucks will bring returnees to a transit point, from which they will be transferred on to Eritrean trucks. Authorities on both sides of the border, in collaboration with UNHCR, have prepared a temporary stopover point at the border to facilitate the transfer. Sheltered areas, water, food and a site for medical care have been set up.Yesterday, trucks picked up the first group of nearly 400 Eritrean refugees from a string of camps close to the border. They are expected to spend their first night back home at the transit centre before proceeding to their villages of origin. Returnees will receive an identity card and a reintegration package, which consists of a cash grant, basic household supplies and a three-month food package supplied by the World Food Programme (WFP).Before the suspension of the return programme last July, UNHCR aided the relocation of more than 50,000 Eritreans out of a total 103,000 who have returned home since May 2001. UNHCR now hopes to assist the return of hundreds of Eritrean refugees before mid-July when the rainy season begins. In another UNHCR repatriation effort, a five-truck convoy carrying 126 Somali refugees from Djibouti arrived yesterday at the border crossing between the two countries. They spent the night at Garbodadar, halfway between the border and the Somaliland capital of Hargeisa. They were scheduled to leave the overnight point before dawn today.Weather conditions permitting, UNHCR said it expects to assist the return of 5,000 Somali refugees from Djibouti. read more

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