Close sites icon close
Search form

Search for the country site.

Country profile

Country website

High Commissioner to visit Angola to mark repatriation success

Briefing notes

High Commissioner to visit Angola to mark repatriation success

23 March 2007 Also available in:

High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres leaves this weekend to attend a ceremony in Luanda hosted by the Angolan government at which regional leaders will mark the successful conclusion of the largest repatriation of refugees in Africa in the last decade. Since the end of the 30-year civil war in Angola in 2002, when 457,000 Angolans were believed to be refugees in neighbouring countries, nearly 410,000 have returned home.

Mr. Guterres will arrive on Sunday, hold meetings with government officials and UNHCR's implementing partners during the day on Monday and attend a dinner hosted by the government of Angola on Monday night.

On Tuesday, he will meet with the Angolan prime minister, Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos, and then participate in the official ceremony marking the closure of the organised voluntary repatriation operation. Later in the day, he will have meetings with representatives of the neighbouring countries. Some 47,000 Angolan refugees did not accept UNHCR's offer of assisted voluntary repatriation and other solutions for them will now be sought.

On Wednesday, Mr. Guterres will visit Viana refugee camp on the edge of Luanda. It houses thousands of Congolese refugees who have been in Angola for nearly four decades and UNHCR is working with the government to give them permanent residency. In the afternoon he meets representatives of donor countries before departing from Angola in the evening.

The Angolan repatriation programme has dominated UNHCR activity in the region since the assisted return programme to Angola was launched in 2003 with the cooperation of the regional countries. UNHCR and governments in bordering states, especially Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo which sheltered the bulk of refugees, organised the returns. Smaller numbers came from Namibia, the Republic of Congo, Botswana and South Africa.

In the four years of repatriation, UNHCR organised the return of 138,594 Angolan refugees: 43,345 in 2003; 51,673 in 2004; 28,524 in 2005; and 15,052 in 2006. The last of the 2006 repatriation groups arrived this month by chartered aircraft from the DRC.

During that period, UNHCR also assisted 116,856 Angolan refugees who returned on their own. A further 154,000 Angolan refugees are estimated to have returned home and reintegrated without UNHCR assistance.

Inside Angola, UNHCR staff focused on ensuring sustainable reintegration. In the areas of return, the reintegration programme constructed or rehabilitated 75 health posts, clinics and nurses' houses, plus 60 schools and houses for teachers. Micro-credit programmes have helped 10,000 people.

To ensure reintegration activities continue, UNHCR assisted in preparing detailed needs assessments for the nine main municipalities where refugees returned. These have provided a basis for prioritising assistance to a country that had little infrastructure even before three decades of war destroyed what had existed.

Securing the future of the returnees - as well as the millions of internally displaced who have come home - is a long-term development need that is beyond the resources or mandate of UNHCR. The government and its development partners are expected to take the leading role in rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts as these programmes proceed.