UNHCR is set to launch this morning a voluntary repatriation for Angolan refugees from Zambia - the third country in the region to set up an organized return programme for more than 400,000 Angolan refugees outside Angola. Two other operations from the D.R. Congo and Namibia are already underway.
A first convoy carrying some 500 Angolan refugees is scheduled to leave Meheba camp in western Zambia this morning for Cazombo, eastern Angola. More than 25,000 Angolan refugees have registered to return from Meheba alone under the return programme to be carried out over the next two years. Zambia is home to some 200,000 Angolan refugees - nearly half the total number of Angolan refugees in the region. The refugees in Zambia are being cared for in four refugeee camps in the west and in urban areas.
Convoys from Zambia will assist refugees to return mainly to Cazombo in Angola's eastern province of Moxico. Cazombo, along with four other communities (Mbanza Congo in the province of Zaïre; Luau in Moxico; and Menogue and Calundo in Cuando Cubango) meet certain pre - conditions for organized return. All can be reached by road, the danger of landmines is relatively low, and basic services including schools, health clinics and potable water are available. Many areas of Angola do not yet have the conditions in place for repatriation. However, UNHCR is working with the Government of Angola and other partners to open up more areas for return in the coming months.
Returnees will spend the first few days back in Angola in a reception centre where they will receive mine awareness training, HIV/AIDS information and medical assistance, where needed. They will also receive a re - integration kit which consists of food rations, a construction kit to assist in building their homes, and basic household supplies.
With the start of repatriation from Zambia we now have in place four return routes to Angola. There are two return routes from the D.R. Congo - from the Bas Congo southwards into Mbanza Congo in northern Angola and from Katanga Province to Luau in north - eastern Angola. We opened up a third route from Namibia into the southern Angola province of Cuando Cubango.
Nearly 2,000 Angolan refugees have been assisted home from D.R. Congo and Namibia since the start of organized return to Angola nearly three weeks ago. The government of Angola estimates that some 130,000 Angolans have returned home on their own since last year.