Angolan repatration draws to a close

Briefing Notes, 20 December 2005

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 20 December 2005, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The return home Monday of a group of 42 Angolan refugees from Botswana marked the end of UNHCR's three-year programme of organised convoys to Angola, under a voluntary repatriation scheme that helped hundreds of thousands of refugees return home. The 42 Angolans, who had been living in the refugee camp of Dukwi in north-eastern Botswana, flew by plane to Menonge in southern Angola where they were given a cash grant to travel on to their home villages. They were also given the usual non-food items for repatriating refugees, ranging from cooking equipment and buckets to more specialised kits containing tools to build houses or seeds and tools to resume farming. Each person also received a two-month food ration from the World Food Programme.

Since the Angolan-organised voluntary repatriation programme started in 2003, more than 123,000 Angolan refugees have gone home with the help of UNHCR. Within Angola, UNHCR has also assisted a further 89,000 people who arrived home on their own. In total, about half a million Angolans are estimated to have repatriated, with or without UNHCR assistance, since the April 2002 ceasefire that brought to an end Angola's 27-year civil war.

This year, more than 28,000 Angolans returned with the assistance of UNHCR from neighbouring countries mainly Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) 15,000 by charter air flights and the rest in land convoys. In addition, nearly 9,000 refugees received UNHCR assistance inside the country after returning on their own and approaching UNHCR reception centres.

At the end of this year there will still be an estimated 96,000 Angolan refugees outside the country, including those in camps in Zambia, DRC and Namibia, as well as urban refugees caring for themselves and those registered as settled in other countries.

There are also an unknown number of Angolans who have settled in Zambia and DRC where UNHCR is conducting a registration exercise to establish their intentions for return. Although transport will only be made available for the most vulnerable cases, UNHCR will provide resettlement assistance inside Angola to those who return on their own. The future of Angolan refugees still in Zambia who have not taken up UNHCR's repatriation assistance will be discussed when the Tripartite Commission grouping Zambia, Angola and UNHCR meets in January.




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Forty Years On, Antonio Goes Home to Angola

Antonio has been waiting 40 years to return to his home village in northern Angola. He fled to Democratic Republic of the Congo when the country was a Portuguese colony, and stayed away through years of civil war and during the peace that followed in 2002. Now, no longer classed as a refugee, he is finally going back.

Seated in a rickety chair in his family's rented apartment in Kinshasa on the eve of his departure, the 66-year-old Angolan was excited. "I feel joy when I think that I will go home. It's better to be a citizen of your own country than a refugee in another country. It's liberation," he said, flanked by his wife, sister and granddaughter.

Photographer Brian Sokol followed the four of them as they began their journey in Kinshasa on August 19, taking a seven-hour train journey to the town of Kimpese in Bas-Congo province and then reaching the border by bus. They were among the first group to go back home with the help of UNHCR under a third and final voluntary repatriation programme since 2002. The family faces many new challenges in Angola, but their joy was far greater than any apprehension. "I will dance when we arrive at the border," said Antonio's sister, Maria. UNHCR is organizing the return of nearly 30,000 former refugees to Angola.

Forty Years On, Antonio Goes Home to Angola

UNHCR resumes return operation for 43,000 Angolans in DR Congo

The UN refugee agency has resumed a voluntary repatriation programme for Angolan refugees living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Some 43,000 Angolans have said they want to go back home under a project that was suspended four years ago for various reasons. A first group of 252 Angolan civilians left the UNHCR transit centre in the western DRC town of Kimpese on November 4, 2011 They crossed the border a few hours later and were warmly welcomed by officials and locals in Mbanza Congo. In the first two weeks of the repatriation operation, more than 1,000 Angolan refugees returned home from the DRC provinces of Bas-Congo in the west and Katanga in the south. Out of some 113,000 Angolan refugees living in neighbouring countries, 80,000 are hosted by the DRC.

UNHCR resumes return operation for 43,000 Angolans in DR Congo

Photo Gallery: The Challenge of Forced Displacement in Africa

Africa is the continent most affected by the tragedy of forced displacement. While millions of refugees were able to return to Angola, Burundi, Liberia, Rwanda and South Sudan over the last 15 years, the numbers of internally displaced people continued to grow. At the beginning of 2009, in addition to some 2.3 million refugees, an estimated 11.6 million people were internally displaced by conflict in Africa.

To address forced displacement on the continent, the African Union is organizing a special summit on refugees, returnees and internally displaced people from October 19-23 in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. Heads of state and government will look at the challenges and at ways to find solutions to forced displacement. They are also expected to adopt a Convention for the protection and assistance of internally displaced people (IDP) in Africa, which would be the first legally binding instrument on internal displacement with a continental scope. This photo gallery looks at some of the forcibly displaced around Africa, many of whom are helped by UNHCR.

Photo Gallery: The Challenge of Forced Displacement in Africa

Almost Home Play video

Almost Home

Former Angolan refugees, in exile for as many as three decades, are given the opportunity to locally integrate in neighboring Zambia with the help of UNHCR and the Zambian Government.
Angola: Home At LastPlay video

Angola: Home At Last

On April 4th, Angola will celebrate five years of peace. The decades-long war is over, but establishing peace has not been easy. UNHCR has been instrumental in bringing Angolans back home, helping them re-start their lives and renew ties with their communities.