The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Friday re-started the repatriation exercise of nearly 5,000 Kenyan refugees from camps in southern Ethiopia that was suspended in November last year, an UNHCR statement released said.
The repatriation exercise was suspended when the Kenyan government refused on security grounds to allow entry to a 20-truck convoy -- the first of 10 convoys organized by the UNHCR to return the Kenyan refugees home.
More than 500 Kenyan returnees, mainly women and children, were waiting at the time to complete immigration formalities on the no-man's land on the border between Kenya and Ethiopia.
"Today, one year after the repatriation was halted in its tracks, a first group of 529 refugees traveling on eight trucks was transported by UNHCR into Kenya through the northern border town of Moyale for their homes at Takaba in Mandera district, some 170 kilometers (106 miles) away," the statement said.
A total of 4,818 refugees, screened and cleared by the Kenyan government officials early this year, expect to be home before the end of the year, having spent eight years in exile in Ethiopia after fleeing clan conflicts sparked off by Kenya's first multi-party elections in December 1992.
The repatriation is the result of a tripartite agreement signed last June 20 between the UNHCR and the Kenyan and Ethiopian governments -- NAIROBI (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )