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Angola: Second repatriation convoy due to leave DRC

Briefing notes

Angola: Second repatriation convoy due to leave DRC

24 June 2003

A second repatriation convoy of Angolan refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is due to leave Tuesday from Kilueka and Nkondo camps in Bas-Congo Province. The convoy will carry 160 returning refugees to M'Banza Congo in northern Angola. Another convoy from Kisenge, in the DRC's Katanga Province, is scheduled to leave on Thursday with approximately 400 refugees on board, heading for the town of Luau in eastern Angola. UNHCR in Katanga has received 16 additional trucks, which will allow us to gradually increase the number of refugees on each convoy.

At the moment UNHCR is concentrating on returns to areas which are relatively safe, reasonably clear of mines and where basic services are available. They include the towns of M'Banza Congo in Angola's Zaïre province and Luau in Moxico province. Refugees from Cuimba, another town in Zaïre province, will also be able to return, once road conditions have been improved between M'Banza Congo and Cuimba.

In July, we will also start the repatriation from Namibia and Zambia for refugees originating from Menongue, Caiundo and Cazombo, in Cuando Cubango and Moxico provinces of Angola. UNHCR has set up reception centres in all of these towns. Additional return destinations will be added as soon basic health, education and water services are established in other areas.

Meanwhile the first groups of 543 Angolan refugees from the DRC arrived safely in Angola on Friday and were accommodated in two reception centres in Luau and M'Banza Congo. Some of the refugees who live in the two towns will be able to head back to their home areas in the next couple of days. Those who live in remote rural areas will have to wait for transport arrangements.

Over the weekend, the returnees received food and a package of domestic items, including blankets, kitchen sets and plastic sheeting. They were also given HIV/AIDS and mine-awareness training.

A ceremony to mark the start of the official repatriation was held on Friday at the Luvo border crossing. It was attended by Angolan officials and UNHCR's Regional Coordinator for the Angolan operation who signed an agreement that spells out the rights of refugees returning to their homeland. These include the right to choose where they want to return and the right to recover lost property. Under the agreement, returning refugees also have the right to bring back foreign-born spouses to Angola with them.

Since the signing of a peace accord between the Government of Angola and UNITA rebel forces in April 2002, close to 130,000 Angolans have spontaneously returned home according to the government. The current repatriation may eventually encompass up to 400,000 Angolan refugees driven from their country by nearly three decades of civil war.