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Tripartite mission gives boost to repatriation of Angolans in Republic of Congo


Tripartite mission gives boost to repatriation of Angolans in Republic of Congo

A recent visit by Angolan officials to the Republic of Congo has given a fillip to efforts to repatriate some 2,900 Angolan refugees. On Thursday, 65 refugees were flown to Luanda as part of the UNHCR repatriation programme, while another 200 will go home by convoy later this month.
2 November 2006
Officials from Angola, Republic of Congo and UNHCR tell Angolan refugees about the situation back home.

BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo, November 2 (UNHCR) - A recent visit by Angolan officials to the Republic of Congo has given a fillip to efforts to repatriate some 2,900 Angolan refugees who fled to this country over the past three decades to escape civil war in their homeland.

On Thursday, 65 refugees were flown from Brazzaville to the Angolan capital, Luanda, as part of the UNHCR repatriation programme. The refugee agency plans to take another 200 refugees to Angola's Cabinda province by land convoy on November 20. The repatriation programme is due to run until the end of this year.

Today's repatriation came days after representatives from Republic of Congo (ROC), Angola and UNHCR travelled to the Congolese departments of Kouilou and Pointe Noire to inform refugees about conditions and reception facilities in Angola.

"We have come to give you a message of hope, a fraternal message, and to tell you that conditions have improved enough for you to come back to our country - your country," Feliciano Lopes Toco, deputy governor of Angola's Cabinda province, told the refugees.

His encouragement was welcomed; those taking part in the October 21-25 mission, which included former Angolan refugees, were struck by the refugees' desire to return home. The former refugees gave glowing accounts of the situation in Angola and spoke of their own return and reintegration.

"I returned because I was convinced that conditions had improved in my country. I took advantage of UNHCR's repatriation progamme because it was easier for me. I was able to take all my belongings. We were transported in comfort and safety and at the other end they received us like lords," said Estevao Mangovo Macungo, who has found work and built a house.

At the end of the tripartite mission, UNHCR said that in the next few weeks it would interview refugees at different sites in ROC to determine whether or not they wanted to return home.

Leaders of the three delegations agreed to accelerate the process so that more repatriations could be organised before the programme closes at the end of the year. They also pledged to ensure that the necessary logistical and security conditions were in place to ensure the smooth repatriation and reintegration of returnees.

Some refugees told the visitors they were worried about the security situation in Angola, which only emerged from almost three decades of civil war in 2002. "I want to return home, even immediately, but please assure me that I will not come running back here like the last time," said one refugee, who also wanted assurances that he would be able to return to farming without fear.

Aldina Matilde Barros de Lomba, provincial director of the Angolan Social Welfare Ministry, told him: "If the conditions were not met, we would not have come. You saw the films and the photographs, it is reality and we need everyone to help rebuild the country."

Another tripartite mission is expected to meet Angolan refugees in other parts of the country later this month. ROC hosts more than 60,000 refugees, with most coming from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (51,000) and Rwanda (6,500).

Angolans are the third largest refugee group in the country. Since 2003, some 975 Angolan refugees have returned home from Pointe-Noire, Dolisie and Brazzaville with the help of UNHCR. Several thousand have returned home on their own during the same period.

By Flore Mireille Mabika in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo