UNHCR restarts return programme for Angolan refugees in DR Congo

Briefing Notes, 4 November 2011

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahečić to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 4 November 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is today restarting a repatriation programme for Angolan refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) after a four year hiatus. 252 people are being returned to Angola from the Congolese city of Kimpese some 220 km west of Kinshasa.

Organized large-scale voluntary returns of Angolans from DRC stopped in 2007 because of logistical and other difficulties at that time. Between 2003 and 2007 UNHCR helped some 57,000 Angolans in going home from DRC.

DRC is today home to some 80,000 Angolans refugees, who have been in exile for decades. The new return initiative comes after a UNHCR survey in 2010 found that 43,000 people were interested in going home, and following a new tripartite agreement between Angola, DRC, and UNHCR which was signed in June this year. Around 20,000 people have already signed-up for UNHCR help with returning.

Refugees are telling UNHCR staff that they want to go home because of the improved prospects for peace in Angola, because their families are waiting for them, because they feel they would be better off at home, and because they miss their country. One of those returning home today is a 91-year-old woman who is looking forward to being reunited with her children who have already gone back to Angola.

This morning's convoy from Kimpese, involving seven buses, is scheduled to cross the border into Angola at around 11:00 a.m. local time. The journey to the border is about 80 kilometers.

In preparation for the return, refugees arrived yesterday (Thursday) from refugee villages and settlements around Kimpese and spent the night at a transit centre. They went through medical screening, and vaccinations, and received their voluntary repatriation forms, which will serve as an identity document until they have their Angolan ID cards.

The returning Angolan refugees are being escorted by a DRC Ministerial Delegation and UNHCR's Representative in DRC. UNHCR is planning two return convoys per week.

Angola has assured all refugees that the authorities will help them with housing, micro-credit, vocational training and other projects. UNHCR will monitor their well-being for up to 18 months.

The return of Angolan refugees to Angola is also taking place from other countries in the sub-region. Return operations from Republic of Congo are expected to start soon. A few weeks ago, 1,700 Angolan refugees left from Zambia.

Large-scale returns can involve huge logistical challenges. Roads and bridges have to be repaired a task that becomes more challenging with the start of the rainy season.

Some 113,000 Angolan refugees remain in DRC, RoC, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia.

In October, UNHCR and IOM jointly appealed for US$21 million to help Angolan refugees return home from their countries of asylum. So far we have received just US$8 million.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Kinshasa, Celine Schmitt on mobile +243 81 700 9484
  • In Geneva: Babar Baloch on +41 79 557 9106




UNHCR works with the country of origin and host countries to help refugees return home.

Return to Swat Valley

Thousands of displaced Pakistanis board buses and trucks to return home, but many remain in camps for fear of being displaced again.

Thousands of families displaced by violence in north-west Pakistan's Swat Valley and surrounding areas are returning home under a government-sponsored repatriation programme. Most cited positive reports about the security situation in their home areas as well as the unbearable heat in the camps as key factors behind their decision to return. At the same time, many people are not yet ready to go back home. They worry about their safety and the lack of access to basic services and food back in Swat. Others, whose homes were destroyed during the conflict, are worried about finding accommodation. UNHCR continues to monitor people's willingness to return home while advocating for returns to take place in safety and dignity. The UN refugee agency will provide support for the transport of vulnerable people wishing to return, and continue to distribute relief items to the displaced while assessing the emergency shelter needs of returnees. More than 2 million people have been displaced since early May in north-west Pakistan. Some 260,000 found shelter in camps, but the vast majority have been staying with host families or in rented homes or school buildings.

Return to Swat Valley

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

Tanzanian refugees return to Zanzibar

The UN refugee agency has successfully completed the voluntary repatriation of 38 Tanzanian refugees from Zanzibar who had been residing in the Somalia capital, Mogadishu, for more than a decade. The group, comprising 12 families, was flown on two special UNHCR-chartered flights from Mogadishu to Zanzibar on July 6, 2012. From there, seven families were accompanied back to their home villages on Pemba Island, while five families opted to remain and restart their lives on the main Zanzibar island of Unguja. The heads of households were young men when they left Zanzibar in January 2001, fleeing riots and violence following the October 2000 elections there. They were among 2,000 refugees who fled from the Tanzanian island of Pemba. The remainder of the Tanzanian refugee community in Mogadishu, about 70 people, will wait and see how the situation unfolds for those who went back before making a final decision on their return.

Tanzanian refugees return to Zanzibar

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