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DRC: winding up repatriation of Angolan refugees

Briefing notes

DRC: winding up repatriation of Angolan refugees

27 May 2005

Today, UNHCR is winding up one phase of its repatriation of Angolan refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, with a final convoy carrying 300 refugees from Kisenge refugee site in southern DRC to Luau, in eastern Angola. The three refugee sites at Kisenge - which at the peak in 2002 had total population of nearly 48,700 - will now be closed and the site's hospitals and schools handed over to the Congolese authorities and local communities who have generously hosted the refugees for many years.

After arriving in Luau, the refugees will stay for a few days in a reception centre before travelling to their home communities, mainly in Moxico and Lunda Sul provinces.

Kisenge is the second Angolan refugee site in DRC to close this year. Ngidinga camp in Bas Congo was shut down in March after the repatriation from that site came to an end. In total, some 42,400 Angolan refugees have returned with UNHCR's help from DRC since the start of the voluntary repatriation operation in June 2003. We have also assisted in Angola nearly 24,000 refugees who returned from DRC on their own.

There are currently an estimated 22,000 Angolan refugees in camps and settlements in DRC, the majority around the capital Kinshasa and in the provinces of Bandundu and Bas Congo bordering Angola's northern provinces. There are also an estimated 72,000 Angolan refugees in DRC who have settled spontaneously. UNHCR will continue organising refugee returns to Angola throughout the year. Those refugees who cannot or do not want to return to Angola might be able to integrate in the DRC, with the agreement of the Congolese authorities.

On 12 May, UNHCR staff returned to the refugee sites in DRC's Kimvula region bordering the Angolan province of Uige, after a temporary relocation because of health concerns following the outbreak of the Marburg virus in Uige earlier this year. We are planning to open a return corridor from Kimvula to Uige province this year to start the repatriation of the 6,000 refugees living in camps in the area.

In all, some 310,000 Angolan refugees have returned home since the signing of the 2002 Luena peace accords ending nearly three decades of conflict. Nearly 180,000 refugees have returned with assistance from UNHCR and its partners. The refugee agency plans to help another 53,000 Angolan refugees return home by October when the three-year repatriation movement comes to an end.