Angolan refugees return home from Namibia ahead of June deadline

Briefing Notes, 18 May 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 18 May 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

On Tuesday, UNHCR organized the voluntary repatriation of Angolan refugees from Namibia as part of our overall effort to help return for as many Angolan refugees as possible, ahead of the cessation of their refugee status at the end of the next month.

The convoy with 108 Angolan refugees on board departed from the Osire refugee settlement in Northern Namibia on Tuesday. Many of them had been living in Namibia for some 20 years. Some of the returnees had been born in Namibia and had never been to Angola before. They arrived in Angola yesterday, after travelling for three days.

Earlier this year, UNHCR recommended the invocation of the cessation of refugee status as of 30 June 2012 for Angolan refugees who fled during the war of independence in Angola (from 1961 to 1975), and the subsequent Angolan civil war (from 1975 to 2002). Cessation is being invoked because the situation in Angola has fundamentally changed. Peace and stability have come back to Angola, with most Angolan refugees already having returned home.

While only 28 Angolan refugees in Namibia chose to repatriate last year, now more than 3,000 of them have registered to return to Angola by 30th of June.

UNHCR provides refugees with a cash grant before their departure from Namibia, while the World Food Programme distributed them a three-month food ration. The Namibian government also donated trucks to transport their belongings back to Angola.

Once in Angola, returnees receive identity documents and reintegration packages provided by the Angolan government.

This year, nearly 40,000 Angolan refugees across central and southern Africa have registered with UNHCR for voluntary repatriation to Angola.

Since UNHCR resumed large-scale repatriation operations to Angola late last year, more than 10,500 refugees have returned home from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of Congo, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia.

There are some 130,000 Angolan refugees still in exile, primarily in the neighbouring countries of the Democratic Republic of the Congo which has the largest number 78,144; Zambia, which has 23,520; Namibia, with 4,322; South Africa with 5,800; the Republic of the Congo, having 996; Botswana, with 500; and others elsewhere in much smaller numbers.

UNHCR is working with host governments to consider local integration for the remaining Angolan refugees who are unable to return home or those unwilling to do so because they have strong ties to their countries of asylum.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Geneva, Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile: +41 79 249 34 83
  • In Pretoria, Tina Ghelli on mobile +27 827 70 41 89
  • In Namibia, Lawrence Mgbangson +26 48 11 28 71 12
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UNHCR country pages

Repatriation

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

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

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

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South Sudan: No Home To Return To

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Almost Home Play video

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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.
Mali: Waiting to ReturnPlay video

Mali: Waiting to Return

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