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UNHCR calls on governments not to return Angolans

Briefing notes

UNHCR calls on governments not to return Angolans

17 September 1999

UNHCR has called on European governments not to repatriate rejected Angolan asylum-seekers against their will, saying that they "face high security risks and insurmountable hardship" on return.

In a letter sent to European governments last week UNHCR said deportations should even be halted to Luanda, the capital. The conflict between Angolan government and UNITA forces has spread to almost every major town, and civilians are being forcibly recruited by both sides.

Last year, 1,925 Angolans sought asylum in six European countries. 2,046 cases from Angola were decided during 1998, with 1,096 rejections and 506 individuals getting refugee or other status allowing them to stay on. Acceptance rates for Angolan asylum-seekers among the six states last year ranged from 8% in Germany to 62% in Switzerland.

Since restarting in June of last year, the conflict in Angola has caused an estimated 1.7 million people to flee their homes. Only a few hundred thousand are within reach of any humanitarian aid at all. At the same time more than 60,000 Angolans have fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are now almost 300,000 Angolan refugees, mainly in Zambia, DRC, and the Republic of Congo.

By mid-1998, around 140,000 Angolans had repatriated, many on their own, from neighbouring countries, encouraged by the progress on a 1994 peace agreement. UNHCR was planning for the return by the end of 1999 of the 230,000 Angolans who were out of the country at that point.