UNHCR repatriates almost 14,000 Angolans; steps up pace of return ahead of deadline

News Stories, 8 June 2012

© UNHCR/G.Dubourthoumieu
Angolan families board buses in Kimpese at the start of their journey home.

GENEVA, June 8 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency announced Friday it has repatriated almost 14,000 Angolan refugees since last November and is stepping up the pace of returns before refugee status ends for tens of thousands of Angolans at the end of this month.

UNHCR spokesman, Adrian Edwards, explained to journalists in Geneva that group refugee status will formally end on June 30 for people who fled Angola during the country's 1965-75 war of independence from Portugal and during the subsequent civil war, which ended in 2002.

"UNHCR launched a new assisted return programme in late 2011 to help Angolans return home from nearby countries, and we are now accelerating that programme," Edwards said. "As of June 2, some 13,700 Angolans had gone back with our help, including over 11,000 from Democratic Republic of the Congo [DRC]. Some 35,000 more have asked for help in getting back before refugee status ends."

The recommendation to end group refugee status for Angolans was made in January this year on the basis of fundamental improvements in the country situation. Many of the roughly 600,000 people who fled Angola to neighbouring countries have already returned home.

Edwards explained that since mid-May, UNHCR has doubled the size of repatriation convoys from the DRC for refugees returning to northern Angola. "Currently 1,200 people are being returned weekly. These refugees are travelling from the capital Kinshasa, as well as from nearby Kimpese in Bas-Congo province and Dilolo in Katanga province, in south-east Congo. They are heading to Uige province in northern Angola, where most of the refugees are originally from."

UNHCR has also ramped up efforts to promote voluntary repatriation of Angolans from other African countries. Namibia relaunched return convoys last month, with more than 3,000 Angolan refugees having registered to repatriate.

Meanwhile returns from Zambia are being done by chartered aircraft. In Botswana, a recent "go-and-see" visit was organized to return areas to help hesitant refugees make informed decisions about returning. "We are also working with governments to increase the number of road convoys and to use bigger planes to repatriate people, particularly for those returning from the DRC and Zambia," said the UNHCR spokesman

In Angola, the logistical challenges are substantial. In some areas, returns by land are extremely difficult due to poor road conditions and washed out bridges. "Our staff and those of our partners are working in difficult circumstances to ensure that convoys run smoothly and that people with specific needs, such as pregnant women, children and the sickly, reach home safely and in dignity," Edwards said.

Currently some 120,000 Angolans remain in exile, with the largest refugee populations in DRC (81,000) and in Zambia (23,000). UNHCR is working with host governments to consider local integration options for those refugees who do not choose to return, in particular those with strong ties to their country of asylum. Angolan refugees who don't want to return for fear of persecution can apply to the authorities for an exemption to the cessation clauses. If granted, those refugees will retain the refugee status.





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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