UNHCR to start Angolan returns with pilot run
MEHEBA, Zambia, June 3 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency is set to start phased returns to Angola from Zambia, where more than 2,000 Angolan refugees have already signed up to go home in an ongoing registration exercise.
On June 12, UNHCR will organise a pilot convoy to bring some 400 Angolan refugees from Meheba camp in Zambia's Solwezi district back to eastern Angola's Cazombo commune. The official return movement to Angola from Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is scheduled to start on June 20.
UNHCR's programme of phased returns over two years aims to help Angolan refugees go back gradually to areas identified as having the essential facilities - basic water and sanitation facilities, as well as schools and clinics - to sustain returns. These areas include Cazombo commune (Moxico province) for returnees from Zambia, as well as M'banza Congo (northern Zaire province) and Luau (Moxico province) for returnees from the DRC.
Since May 27, when Zambia started registering Angolans for return, at least 2,228 Angolans in Meheba camp have signed up for repatriation. On May 26, a similar registration started in the DRC's Bas Congo and Katanga provinces, but the results of that exercise are not immediately available.
Zambia hosts an estimated 90,000 Angolans in camps and settlements and another 98,000 are settled elsewhere, mainly in urban centres. The DRC hosts another 170,000 Angolan refugees. In all, there are more than 440,000 of them in Angola's neighbouring countries.
UNHCR has noted a significant number of spontaneous returns since a cease-fire in Angola went into effect last year, ending 30 years of civil conflict. The refugee agency has signed tripartite agreements with Angola, Zambia and the DRC for the voluntary return of the Angolan refugees.