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Angola: second phase of repatriation from DRC begins

Briefing notes

Angola: second phase of repatriation from DRC begins

6 July 2004

UNHCR's second phase of voluntary repatriations of Angolan refugees from the Democratic People's Republic of the Congo (DRC) is now underway with convoys arriving in the east and north of the country.

On Friday, 2 July, the first convoy of 377 returnees from Kisenge in Katanga province DRC, crossed over the border to Luau in Moxico province in eastern Angola. Kisenge hosts some 15,000 refugees in three different sites. Many of the returnees have lived for more than two decades at Kisenge and the departure was emotionally charged with the sadness of leaving and joy of return.

At the DRC/Angola border the returnees were welcomed by the local authorities, then taken to a transit centre to be registered and get non-food items such as a tool kit, cooking supplies, sleeping mats and mosquito nets. They will also get two months' food supplies from the World Food Programme. Medical care from Médecins Sans Frontières-Belgique was also available at the transit centre. Returnees spend a few days at the transit centre before they are transported to their areas of origin.

Also today, the first convoy of the season with 130 returnees from Kimpese in Bas Congo province, DRC will cross to M'banza Congo in northern Angola. A total of 43,000 expected returnees overall from the DRC this year. The convoys will run twice a week until the end of 2004.

Regular convoys from Zambia to Cazombo in Moxico province started in mid-June and returns from Namibia to Kuando Kubango in southern Angola began in May. In total, 145,000 Angolan refugees are expected to return home this year from neighbouring countries, with UNHCR assisting some 90,000.

A total of 441,000 Angolan refugees were estimated to be living in bordering countries when the peace accords were signed in April 2002, ending 27 years of civil war. Since then, some 218,000 have returned home, including 76,000 in 2003 under UNHCR's voluntary repatriation programme. The major countries of asylum are Zambia, DRC, Namibia and the Republic of Congo.