Angola: Organised returns pass 40,000 mark
Organised returns to Angola have passed the 40,000 mark since the movement began in June. The most recent return convoy carried 125 refugees on Friday from Osire camp in Namibia to Calai, in the southern province of Kuando Kubango. Nearly half those who have returned to date have come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Zambia is close behind with nearly 17,000 returns, followed by Namibia with more than 3,000. The pace of returns is now slowing down with the arrival of the rainy season in some parts of the country. UNHCR offices in Angola, the DRC and Zambia are assessing the feasibility of continuing the repatriation during the rainy season.
UNHCR is planning the first movement to Cuangar, across the border from Namibia in Kuando Kubango province, possibly as early as next week. Movements from Namibia will likely continue well into November as the rainy season starts later in the south. Meanwhile in the north of Angola, in Maquela do Zombo (Uige province), a new reception centre for 240 persons is near completion. Depending on road conditions, a pilot convoy may still be launched from the DRC's Kilueka and Nkondo camps in 2003.
The planting season has already begun in some countries hosting Angolans, and some refugees prefer to remain longer where they are and return only in 2004 after the harvest.
UNHCR operations in Angola face a continued risk from landmines. Over the past week alone, two separate incidents were reported and four people have been injured by a mine strike.
There are still an estimated 300,000 Angolan refugees in neighbouring countries, even though the figure could be lower. The official Angolan estimate puts spontaneous returns since April of 2002 at more than 150,000 but the figure could actually be higher as some spontaneous returns may not have been recorded. UNHCR is planning to help some 145,000 refugees return to their homeland next year. Apart from transportation home, the programme for the return and reintegration of Angolan refugees includes a package of food and non-food items as well as mine and HIV/AIDS awareness training. The effort also involves education, health, water and sanitation projects as well as rehabilitation of roads and other infrastructure for both returnees and their communities.