UNHCR resumes return programme for more than 40,000 Angolan refugees

News Stories, 4 November 2011

© UNHCR/G.Dubourthoumieu
UNHCR staff help prepare the Angolan refugees for their return home.

LUVO, Angola, November 4 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency today relaunched a repatriation programme that should see more than 40,000 Angolan civilians return to their homes after living for years in a western border region of Democratic Republic of the Congo.

A first group of 252 people crossed into northern Angola on seven buses Friday afternoon after leaving the Congolese town of Kimpese in Bas-Congo province earlier in the day. They received a warm welcome at a transit centre in the town of Luvo by Angolan Minister for Assistance and Social Reintegration João Baptista Kussumua and other officials.

The minister said it was an important moment for Angola. "We are starting today the repatriation process which will result in the return of 43,000 refugees," he said. "We have a responsibility to the childen who return today to make sure they will be able to study," Kussumua added.

One of the homeward-bound refugees, 57-year-old Emma, was delighted to be going back after 12 years in Angola. "Today, my dream to go back home comes true," he said. "I am happy because I lose the name 'refugee,' I'm no longer a refugee."

Organized large-scale voluntary returns of Angolans from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) stopped in 2007 because of logistical and other difficulties at that time. But DRC is today still home to some 80,000 Angolans refugees, some of whom have been in exile for decades. A UNHCR survey last year found that 43,000 people were still interested in going home.

A new agreement signed in June this year by Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo and UNHCR paved the way for the latest repatriation operation. To date, around 20,000 people have signed up for UNHCR help with returning and two return convoys per week are planned.

Refugees have told UNHCR staff that they want to go home because of the improved prospects for peace in Angola; for family reunions; because they feel they would be better off at home; or due to homesickness.

In preparation for today's return, the refugees were taken on Thursday to a transit centre in Kimpese from their villages and settlements spread over the rolling countryside. They went through medical screening, were given vaccinations and received their voluntary repatriation forms, which will serve as an identity document until they have their Angolan ID cards.

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

The repatriation of Angolan refugees is also taking place from other countries in the sub-Saharan region. Return operations from Republic of Congo are expected to start soon, while a few weeks ago some 1,700 Angolan refugees left for home 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 the DRC, the Republic of Congo, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia. In October, UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration jointly appealed for US$21 million to help Angolan refugees return home from their countries of asylum. So, UNHCR has received just US$8 million.

By Celine Schmitt in Luvo, Angola





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

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Intense fighting has forced more than 64,000 Congolese to flee the country in recent months.

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Returnees in Myanmar

During the early 1990s, more than 250,000 Rohingya Muslims fled across the border into Bangladesh, citing human rights abuses by Myanmar's military government. In exile, refugees received shelter and assistance in 20 camps in the Cox's Bazaar region of Bangladesh. More than 230,000 of the Rohingya Muslims have returned since 1992, but about 22,000 still live in camps in Bangladesh. To promote stability in returnee communities in Myanmar and to help this group of re-integrate into their country, UNHCR and its partner agencies provide monitors to insure the protection and safety of the returnees as well as vocational training, income generation schemes, adult literacy programs and primary education.

Returnees in Myanmar

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

As a massive food distribution gets underway in six UNHCR-run camps for tens of thousands of internally displaced Congolese in North Kivu, the UN refugee agency continues to hand out desperately needed shelter and household items.

A four-truck UNHCR convoy carrying 33 tonnes of various aid items, including plastic sheeting, blankets, kitchen sets and jerry cans crossed Wednesday from Rwanda into Goma, the capital of the conflict-hit province in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The aid, from regional emergency stockpiles in Tanzania, was scheduled for immediate distribution. The supplies arrived in Goma as the World Food Programme (WFP), with assistance from UNHCR, began distributing food to some 135,000 displaced people in the six camps run by the refugee agency near Goma.

More than 250,000 people have been displaced since the fighting resumed in August in North Kivu. Estimates are that there are now more than 1.3 million displaced people in this province alone.

Posted on 6 November 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

Since 2006, renewed conflict and general insecurity in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province has forced some 400,000 people to flee their homes – the country's worst displacement crisis since the formal end of the civil war in 2003. In total, there are now some 800,000 people displaced in the province, including those uprooted by previous conflicts.

Hope for the future was raised in January 2008 when the DRC government and rival armed factions signed a peace accord. But the situation remains tense in North Kivu and tens of thousands of people still need help. UNHCR has opened sites for internally displaced people (IDPs) and distributed assistance such as blankets, plastic sheets, soap, jerry cans, firewood and other items to the four camps in the region. Relief items have also been delivered to some of the makeshift sites that have sprung up.

UNHCR staff have been engaged in protection monitoring to identify human rights abuses and other problems faced by IDPs and other populations at risk across North Kivu.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Posted on 28 May 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

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