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UNHCR In Final Phase Of Somaliland Repatriation

UN refugee agency starts final phase of repatriation from Djibouti to Somaliland

The United Nations refugee agency today began the final phase of its voluntary repatriation programme to help some 1,800 Somali refugees return from Djibouti to Somaliland by the end of this year.

A convoy of 13 trucks, hired by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), is transporting 210 Somaliland refugees to the Djibouti-Somaliland border, a spokesperson for the agency announced in Geneva. Returnees will spend Tuesday night at a transit centre where they will receive a return package before continuing their journey Wednesday to their homes, according to the agency.

As part of the return package, each returnee will be given the first of three installments of a nine-month food package provided by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to help during the initial months of their reintegration.

UNHCR will also provide families with household goods including kitchen sets, blankets, sleeping mats, jerry cans for water storage and plastic sheeting for protection of their shelters. In addition, returnees will receive some cash to help them pay for transportation from the various drop-off points, mainly in towns, to their home villages.

"The 1,800 refugees are one of the last groups of Somaliland refugees living in Djibouti," said Jennifer Pagonis, recalling that many of the returnees fled to Djibouti after the collapse of the Siad Barre regime in 1991 and ensuing civil war in Somalia.

The majority of the refugees in Djibouti will return to the Awdal Region, where UNHCR and other partners have set up a wide variety of reintegration projects ranging from water, education, income generation, road infrastructure, health and security. These projects have already supported the integration of thousands of returnees from Djibouti and Ethiopia, the agency said.

Since July 2002, when the first group of refugees was assisted home from Djibouti to Somaliland, UNHCR has been promoting repatriation to the self-declared independent republic. Between February 1997 and March 2006, an estimated 300,000 Somaliland refugees have returned home from Ethiopia and Djibouti using their own means as well as through the agency's assisted voluntary repatriation.


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