New agreement to help Congo's Angolan refugees return home
KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, March 31 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency and the governments of Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have agreed on a plan to repatriate more than 163,000 Angolan refugees from the DRC in a major operation set to begin in May this year.
The agreement, reached by the three parties at a two-day meeting in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa on March 28-29, follows a similar tripartite meeting held two weeks ago in the Zambian capital, Lusaka. The Lusaka meeting finalised plans for the return of more than 150,000 Angolan refugees in Zambia - nearly one-third of the 450,000 Angolan refugees expected to return home from neighbouring countries, including the DRC.
Last week's meeting in Kinshasa was the first session of the Technical Working Group which was established on December 9 by the Tripartite Commission on the repatriation of Angolan refugees. Under its plan of action for the return of Angolan refugees in the DRC, the working group has designated border crossings to be used by convoys leaving refugee camps in southern DRC for provinces such as Uíge, Zaïre and Moxico in northern Angola. The working group also agreed on travel documents for returnees and proposed immigration formalities that could be used at entry points into Angola.
Meanwhile, rehabilitation work on some of the roads to be used by return convoys is set to begin soon. The working group identified some of the roads needing repair in Angola and the DRC.
In Angola, the government is rehabilitating basic physical and social infrastructure in many areas of return and is set to open transit centres to receive returnees before they proceed to their home villages. The government has also begun deploying officials to areas that have not had local administrative offices.
The 27-year civil war in Angola that ended in 2002 had prevented the establishment of government administrative structures in some areas of the mineral-rich country.
UNHCR has already opened seven offices in northern Angola where many of the refugees are expected to return. The new offices are in Cazombo, Luau, Luena and Lumbala N'Guimbo (all in Moxico province), Menongue (Cuando province), Maquela do Zombo (Uíge province) and Mbanza Congo (Zaïre province).
A recent survey in camps for Angolan refugees in the DRC (163,000), Zambia (200,000), Namibia (24,500) and the Republic of Congo (16,000) showed that 80 per cent of the Angolan refugee population in these countries would like to return home. Of these, some 66 per cent would like to go home this year.
Since April 2002, some 120,000 Angolans have returned home on their own, mainly from Zambia and the DRC.