Sudan movement restrictions lifted, UN resumes repatriation of Eritreans

Sudan movement restrictions lifted, UN resumes repatriation of Eritreans

Restrictions imposed over the weekend on the movement of staff of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Sudan have been lifted, freeing the agency to resume its registration of Eritreans living in camps, a UNHCR spokesperson said today.

Renewed tensions between Sudan and Eritrea had led to the closure of the border and the suspension of UNHCR’s plans to resume repatriation operations for thousands of Eritrean refugees who wanted to return home, spokesperson Delphine Marie told reporters in Geneva.

The Sudanese authorities had requested UNHCR to halt its information campaigns in the camps, and Khartoum expelled 10 Eritrean officials who had been helping the agency to register refugees seeking to go back home.

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The border was closed after rebels believed to be members of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) launched an attack, capturing the towns of Homoshakarieb and Sholalab. “Sudanese army troops are now believed to have recaptured both towns,” Ms. Marie reported.

The latest fighting in the region and the closure of the border have affected UNHCR’s plan to aid the voluntary return of 100,000 refugees who still reside in camps in eastern Sudan.

Since repatriation began in May 2001, UNHCR has facilitated the return of more than 50,000 refugees out of some 150,000 based in camps.