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UN refugee agency helps 5,000 Somalis return home from Ethiopia

UN refugee agency helps 5,000 Somalis return home from Ethiopia

Nearly 5,000 Somali refugees from camps in eastern Ethiopia have returned home this week to the northwestern part of their country, bringing to nearly 35,000 the total number of Somalis who have returned since the beginning of this year, the United Nations refugee agency said today.

Another convoy with an estimated 1,000 people is scheduled to leave tomorrow for Hargeisa, the drop-off point in northwest Somalia, also called Somaliland, said spokesman Kris Janowski of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The returnees are picked up by UNHCR-hired trucks from the remote camps for the first leg of their return journey. From the border, the refugees board other trucks to Hargeisa, Somaliland's main town, before dispersing to their villages of origin, mainly around Hargeisa, Mr. Janowski said.

The refugees are given repatriation packages that include domestic items for every returning family and a nine-month supply of food for each returnee. The food package includes 150 kilograms of cereals, 10 kilograms of pulses and 5 litres of oil. Many refugees trade a portion of their food for either cash or goats and sheep to aid their integration back into communities that many of them left more than 13 years ago.

More than 25,000 refugees in Daror camp have already registered to return home, Mr. Janowski said. UNHCR expects to close the camp at the end of the return movements slated for completion before the end of the year. Daror will be the third of eight camps for Somali refugees to close this year. In June, UNHCR closed two other camps at Teferiber and Dawarnaje.