Angolan refugees airlifted home from Kinshasa
LUANDA, Angola, August 24 (UNHCR) - More than 200 Angolan refugees have been airlifted home from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as part of UNHCR's ongoing voluntary repatriation programme to Angola.
On Sunday, 215 urban refugees left years of exile in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa on a UN-chartered flight to the Angolan capital, Luanda. They arrived home on the same day and were taken to a distribution centre, where they received a repatriation grant of $100 for adults, as well as three months' supply of food and relief items like salt, sugar, corn flour, beans, cooking oil, kitchen utensils and construction kits.
The returnees will stay in Luanda and the surrounding areas. Further flights may take place at a later date, after the refugees are cleared by the authorities to return to Angola. Airlifts offer the only viable route between the two capitals.
Another 758 Angolan refugees have been airlifted from Mongu in western Zambia to Lumbala N'Guimbo in eastern Angola. The flights, coordinated with the International Organization for Migration, started in early August and are ongoing.
Land convoys, however, remain the main mode of transport for returnees to Angola. A new corridor that opened last week between Meheba in Zambia and Luau and Luena in Angola is expected to boost the number of returnees.
An estimated 218,000 Angolan refugees have returned home since peace accords were signed in April 2002, ending three decades of civil war in Angola. This number includes 76,000 who came home in 2003 under UNHCR's voluntary repatriation programme that started in June 2003.
This year, a total of 145,000 Angolans are expected to return home from asylum countries, including 90,000 with UNHCR assistance. The remainder are expected to make their own way back home.
An estimated 223,000 Angolan refugees remain in the DRC, Zambia, Namibia, Republic of Congo, South Africa and Botswana.