Voluntary repatriation of Eritrean refugees begins

Khartoum- Sudan (PANA) -- The first batch of 934 Eritrean refugees left Kasala in Eastern Sudan for home Sunday.
They were transported in a convoy of 68 vehicles under the voluntary repatriation scheme of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
Speaking in Kasala before the repatriation, UNHCR Representative to Sudan, Weceslaus Urasa, said 1,000 Eritrean refugees would be repatriated every week from the 17,000 registered to go home.
This is out of 62,000 refugees projected for repatriation in 2001.
Urasa said the returnees were provided with a two- month food ration, three blankets, two mosquito nets, a kerosene stove, and a cash grant of 200 US dollars per family.
In Eritrea, they are to be given axes, hoes and other tools to start farming, and provided water barrels and temporary shelter.
The refugees are also promised food supply for 10 months after settling down in their new homes.
A transit camp has already been set up near the Eritrean city of Tessenne from where the returnees will be sent to their places of origin.
Urasa said the 934 returnees were among those that fled the 2000 fighting between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
The refugee official said some 174,000 Eritrean refugees still live in 23 camps in Sudan.
Some of them have been in Sudan for almost 40 years, after fleeing their country during the war for independence from Ethiopia.
Urasa said a plebiscite conducted in the camps showed that 90 percent of the Eritrean refugees want to return home.
Sudan's Commissioner for Refugees, Mohammed Ahmed El Aghbash, said the second batch of 934 Eritrean refugees would be transported to Tessenne from the Laffa camp South of Kasala, Tuesday.

14 may 2001 21:12:00

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