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Democratic Republic of the Congo: airlift boost to returns to Angola

Briefing notes

Democratic Republic of the Congo: airlift boost to returns to Angola

24 August 2004

UNHCR started airlifting Angolan refugees from Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), back to Angola over the weekend as part of an effort to boost the voluntary repatriation programme currently underway. On Sunday, 215 Angolan refugees who had been sheltering for many years in Kinshasa, flew on a UN-chartered flight to Luanda, the Angolan capital. The returnees will stay in Luanda and the surrounding area. Some 2,400 Angolan refugees sought shelter in Kinshasa during the war. Further airlifts may take place at a later date.

After arrival in Luanda, the returnees were taken to a distribution centre where they were provided with a repatriation grant of US$100 for adults and food and non-food items for three months (including salt, sugar, maize flour, beans, cooking oil, kitchen utensils and construction kits).

The DRC, sheltering some 45,000 Angolan refugees, was one of the major asylum countries during the three-decade civil war in Angola, which ended in 2002. UNHCR plans to assist some 32,000 of these refugees return home this year. The remaining 13,000 are scheduled to return during 2005. So far this year, some 7,000 Angolan refugees have returned home from DRC, mainly by land.

Earlier this month, UNHCR with the help of IOM [International Organization for Migration], began airlifting Angolan refugees from Mongu in western Zambia to Lumbala N'Guimbo in eastern Angola. So far, 758 refugees have been airlifted home. Land convoys are also continuing from Zambia and the DRC to Angola. A new corridor from Meheba in Zambia via Jimbe and Caianda to Luau and Luena in eastern Angola opened on 17 August with an inaugural convoy of 411 returnees.

UNHCR expects to assist some 40,000 refugees to return from Zambia this year. This is more than half of the total refugee population in camps and settlements in Zambia, currently 71,420 refugees. So far, some 4,400 refugees have returned on UNHCR convoys from Meheba Settlement in Solwezi district of Zambia. Last year, just over 18,000 refugees returned from Zambia.

In all, a total of 145,000 Angolans are expected to return home in 2004 from asylum countries, including 90,000 with UNHCR assistance. The remainder are expected to make their own way back home. When the peace accords were signed in April 2002, about 441,000 Angolans refugees were estimated to be in bordering countries. Since then, an estimated 218,000 have returned home, including 76,000 in 2003 under UNHCR's voluntary repatriation programme. We estimate some 223,000 Angolan refugees currently remain in the major asylum countries - the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Namibia and Republic of Congo, in addition to 14,000 in South Africa and Botswana.