UNHCR starts last season of Angola-bound flights from Zambia
LUSAKA, Zambia, May 17 (UNHCR) - More than 200 Angolan refugees flew home yesterday as the UN refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration started the last season of airlifts to Angola from camps and settlements in Zambia.
Two flights carrying a total of 237 refugees took off from Zambia's Lusaka International Airport for Huambo in Angola's central highlands on Monday. They were part of some 700 who left Nangweshi camp on Saturday and stopped over in Mongu and Lusaka. The rest of the group will be airlifted home on twice-weekly flights six days a week.
Monday's airlifts followed the start of road convoys from Zambia to Angola last Tuesday, May 10.
Return convoys from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) had started earlier, bringing home more than 1,500 Angolan refugees so far this year. Repatriation to the northern provinces of Angola was impeded in recent weeks due to an outbreak of the Marburg virus, but movements from Kisenge to Moxico province in the east have now been resumed.
In Namibia, more than 500 Angolan refugees have signed up for repatriation by land and by air between June and August. However, a number of students say they wish to wait to complete their studies at the end of the year before returning home, while many of the others are reluctant to go back before the Angolan elections scheduled for 2006. They say they want to avoid the same situation as in 1992, when, after a period of peace, war started again after the elections.
In all, some 310,000 Angolan refugees have returned home since 2002, nearly 180,000 of them with assistance from UNHCR and its partners. The refugee agency plans to help another 53,000 Angolan refugees home by the time the repatriation movement is completed at the end of this year.
By Kelvin Shimo