Angola: voluntary return agreements signed with Namibia and Zambia
Angola and UNHCR have now signed separate agreements with Namibia and Zambia under a programme for the voluntary return of 450,000 Angolan refugees in southern Africa. Following yesterday's (28 Nov.) signing of the tripartite agreements in the Angolan capital of Luanda, commissions were set up to implement the repatriation programme for 211,000 Angolan refugees in Zambia and 24,000 in Namibia. Similar agreements will be signed this year for the return of 193,000 Angolans in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), 16,000 from the Republic of Congo and 10,000 from South Africa. An estimated 50,000 Angolan refugees are living outside Africa.
Thursday's agreements provide the legal framework for voluntary repatriation and include provisions for tax waiver, amnesty, go-and-see visits to home villages, transport, accommodation, family reunification and reintegration. UNHCR expects to organise the first repatriations at the end of the rainy season in May or June next year. We anticipate that around 170,000 Angolans will return with UNHCR in 2003, for which an appeal for $34.5 million has been issued.
The Angolans constitute one of the world's longest-running refugee caseloads. UNHCR had twice previously attempted to begin repatriation from the DRC (formerly Zaire), Zambia and Namibia, but the projects were put off when ceasefires in 1992 and 1995 collapsed.
Some 70,000 Angolans are reported to have returned to Angola spontaneously since a peace agreement between the Angolan government and the UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) rebels in April this year. UNHCR hopes that the current peace accord will last and that the Angolans will finally be able to rebuild their lives after decades of conflict.