Angola repatriation plan discussed in Zambia
Officials from Zambia, Angola and UNHCR are meeting in Lusaka this week to discuss the upcoming Angola repatriation operation. Delegations from both governments and UNHCR gathered in the Zambian capital yesterday (Thursday) to hold the second meeting of the so-called Tripartite Commission. The commission was established in November last year to set up the legal and practical framework for the voluntary return operation, which is due to begin in a few months.
Officials are deciding on key aspects of the operation, such as transportation and accommodation en route; border crossings and customs formalities; and the amount of possessions the refugees will be allowed to take back with them. The provision of information to refugees on their areas of origin, organisation of "go-and-see" visits for refugee leaders and tracing of family members are also among the activities that will take place ahead of the repatriation, which is scheduled for May / June and could see 150,000 Angolans return this year. Since April of 2002, more than 90,000 Angolans have returned home on their own, mainly from Zambia and the DRC.
Tomorrow (Saturday), the delegations will also visit Mayukwayukwa refugee camp in western Zambia, where they will meet with Angolan refugees and provide them with basic information, including an emphasis on the voluntary character of the return.
A similar tripartite meeting took place last week in Namibia's capital, Windhoek, where delegates from the governments of Angola and Namibia as well as UNHCR officials held one-day discussions and visited Osire refugee camp. Another meeting of the Tripartite Commission with the DRC is scheduled to take place in Kinshasa later this month.
The repatriation operation could eventually involve an estimated 450,000 refugees from around the region, some of whom have been in exile for more than 30 years. Zambia (200,000), the DRC (163,000) and Namibia (24,500) are the largest host countries for Angolan refugees in the Southern African region, with smaller numbers hosted in the Republic of Congo (16,000) and South Africa (10,000). An estimated 50,000 are also living in other countries worldwide.