Ahead of rains, UN refugee agency steps up return of Eritreans from Sudan

22 June 2001

Acting quickly to beat anticipated rains in the Horn of Africa, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has intensified its efforts to return Eritreans home from the Sudan, a spokesperson for the agency announced today.

"In a stepped-up movement ahead of the long rainy season, 2,105 refugees boarded trucks this morning from Sudan's eastern camp of Gadaref for a two-day journey to Tesseney, western Eritrea," Millicent Mutuli told reporters in Geneva.

The operation, launched in mid-May, aims to return home over 170,000 Eritreans, according to UNHCR. The agency began the effort with twice-weekly convoys of 1,000 refugees each, gradually increasing to 2,000 per convoy.

"Some of the returnees have lived in exile for more than 20 years and have no homes to return to," said Ms. Mutuli. "Eritrean authorities are allocating land to this group of returnees."

The agency plans to repatriate 20,000 Eritreans by the beginning of July, at which point "the rains will likely make it difficult for trucks to travel on the unpaved roads," Ms. Mutuli said, adding an additional 62,000 Eritreans will be repatriated by the end of this year.


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