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.

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