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Angolan repatriation season starts again

Angolan repatriation season starts again

Two hundred Angolan refugees have gone home from Namibia in the first organised return convoy this year. They will soon be joined by Angolan refugees in Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In all, UNHCR plans to help 145,000 Angolan returnees in 2004.
21 May 2004
Angolan refugees at a water point in Osire camp, Namibia.

CUNENE, Angola, May 21 (UNHCR) - Repatriation season has started in Angola, with this year's first convoy of 200 Angolan refugees returning home from Namibia on Thursday.

The refugees left Namibia's Osire camp on Thursday and arrived in Cunene province, south-eastern Angola, later the same day. They will spend a few days at a reception centre in Cunene, where they will receive accommodation, food and medical assistance as well as training sessions on landmine awareness and HIV/AIDS prevention, before heading to their home areas.

The UN refugee agency plans to conduct weekly return convoys from Osire camp, which hosts some 12,000 Angolan refugees who fled their country during the 27-year civil war. The movements will go first to Cunene, then to Cuando Cubango and finally to other non-bordering provinces of Angola.

Thursday's convoy marked the official resumption of UNHCR-organised returns to Angola after a six-month break due to the rainy season. This year, the agency expects to repatriate some 90,000 Angolan refugees from Namibia, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Convoys from the latter two countries are expected to resume in June, once the rains are over in these regions and road conditions have improved.

In addition, UNHCR and its partners plan to assist another 55,000 Angolans returning from the three bordering countries on their own. Those spontaneous returnees who get registered in one of UNHCR's reception centres in Angola will receive the same repatriation package of food, household items and agricultural tools as people who return on organised convoys. They will also undergo the awareness training on landmines and HIV/AIDS.

In all, UNHCR hopes to help 145,000 Angolan returnees this year.

In Botswana, which hosts 2,000 Angolan refugees, registration will start in the coming days for those wishing to return. The actual repatriation is scheduled to start in July, via Namibia. In South Africa, some 4,000 Angolans out of 13,626 registered refugees have so far expressed the wish to go home and this will also take place via Namibia, starting in August this year.

According to government figures, close to 218,000 Angolan refugees have returned home since the peace accord was signed between the Angolan government and rebels of UNITA (Union for the Total Independence of Angola) in April 2002.

This number includes 45,000 who returned on organised convoys after UNHCR started the repatriation movement last June. Another 30,000 spontaneous returnees received reintegration assistance from the agency last year.

The refugee agency is also involved in community-based projects to benefit not only the returnees but also the local population in areas of return. Projects include the construction of wells, schools, health centres and access roads - crucial infrastructure in a country devastated by war and riddled with millions of landmines.