Angolan refugee successfully integrates in Russia

News Stories, 6 May 2013

Lema Dane on the Moscow metro. The refugee from Angola who is now studying to be an actor after a very difficult childhood in Russia.

MOSCOW, Russian Federation, May 5 (UNHCR) Lema Dane was brought to Russia by his family as a one-year-old refugee, placed in an orphanage for six years, reclaimed by his mother and then left behind when she returned to Angola. He had a hard start to his life.

Dane, now 20 and studying to be an actor, has overcome formidable obstacles to stand as an example of a refugee who has successfully integrated into his new home.

He is one of approximately 500 refugees registered by UNHCR who have been staying in Russia since the 1990s. Over the years, UNHCR and its partners in consultation with the Federal Migration Service of Russia have provided social support and legal counselling to help them find long-term solutions and gradually switch from UNHCR-sponsored assistance to the state-run services.

Dane was only aged one when his parents brought him from Angola to Russia in 1994. His mother and father went through many difficulties in the new country and in 1997 Dane was put into an orphanage. He stayed there till 2003 when his mother took him back to live with her new husband in Moscow.

Soon a new sister, Prescillia, was born, but in 2006 their mother went to Luanda, supposedly to find a new place of residence for the family. She never returned and Dane remained in Russia with his stepfather and stepsister.

As a highly vulnerable case, Dane's life was closely followed by UNHCR. Social workers of the UN refugee agency regularly examined living conditions of the family, provided extra help for education and nutrition of the kids, and considered different options for a long-term durable solution.

Dane's fortune changed. With the support of UNHCR, Dane and his stepfather finally obtained legal status in Russia, which gave them a chance to work, study and fully integrate in the country.

Then in 2007 Dane won the lead role in the film "Cosmonaut's Grandson." directed by Russian actor and film-maker Andrei Panin. During the filming Dane got on well with all the actors.

"There was just one difficulty about that film I had to play the role of a hooligan, and it made me feel uncomfortable in some episodes," said Dane.

He was well paid and also received a laptop computer for participating in the film. And he gained a dream to become a professional actor.

UNHCR continued to monitor Dane's situation and intervened when necessary. In 2010 he was helped to get into school in Moscow to continue his studies in a friendly environment. The boy proved to be purposeful, motivated and disciplined. He studied well, and was especially interested in history and literature.

After classes, he joined with his friends to play football and to organize a theatre studio. And he continued to dream about studying dramatic art after secondary school.

"Dane's case shows that successful integration in Russia is possible even after frustrating periods of temporary solutions. Our work is to help authorities and civil society to improve legal and social avenues for integration of persons seeking asylum in Russia," said UNHCR Representative in the Russian Federation Gesche Karrenbrock.

"Through a comprehensive solutions strategy, UNHCR progressively pursues a positive shift in durable solutions. The integration of refugee kids like Dane will be of benefit to the host society that supported it," she added.

Last year, Dane finished secondary school. His dream is now nearing reality he studies actor's art in the Culture College in the city of Chelyabinsk and after four years will get the dramatic actor's diploma.

When asked about his future, Dane says: "I am thinking about common things, probably, like everybody about my own home and family. All is well."

By Ekaterina Myazdrikova in Moscow, Russian Federation




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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.

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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

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