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Repatriation of Eritrean refugees from Sudan going "smoothly," UN agency says

Repatriation of Eritrean refugees from Sudan going "smoothly," UN agency says

A massive repatriation of Eritrean refugees -- some of whom have been in exile in the Sudan since the 1960s -- is proceeding without major incidents, with thousands returning each week, according to the United Nations agency running the effort.

"The repatriation is continuing smoothly, with a convoy of 1,000-1,500 people expected twice a week," Kris Janowski, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told reporters in Geneva today. A convoy of 1,085 refugees crossed the Sudanese border into Eritrea this morning.

Since the start of the voluntary repatriation exercise on 12 May, more than 3,000 refugees have returned, including many Eritreans who had fled the recent war between their country and Ethiopia. Some 20,000 refugees in the Sudan have registered to return to Eritrea.

"UNHCR is transporting the returnees from camps in eastern Sudan to a transit centre in Tesseney, western Eritrea," Mr. Janowski explained. "From there, the Eritrean Relief and Refugee Commission and the country's Ministry of Health are organizing general assistance and onward transport to their home villages."

According to UNHCR, there are some 174,000 Eritrean refugees in camps in the Sudan, some of whom have spent more than 30 years in exile.