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Angola repatriation from Zambia resumes

Briefing notes

Angola repatriation from Zambia resumes

15 June 2004

UNHCR is starting its second season of voluntary repatriation of Angolan refugees from Zambia today, Tuesday.

We are expecting to assist 40,000 refugees to return from Zambia this year, between now until the end of October when the rainy season starts. This is more than half the total Angolan refugee population living in camps and settlements in Zambia, (71,420 refugees). Last year, just over 18,000 refugees returned from Zambia.

The first convoy of 500 returnees is set to leave Meheba Refugee Settlement in Zambia this morning. After a journey of about 300 km, they will overnight at Kamapanda on the Zambia/Angola border, before continuing on to their destination of Cazombo in eastern Angola, reaching there on Wednesday.

At Cazombo, the returnees will stay for several days at the reception centre, where they are offered mine awareness and HIV/AIDS sessions and get medical assistance if required. They will be given items such as soap, jerry cans, kitchen sets, blankets, a tool kit, seeds and agricultural implements. Returnees will get two months food rations including cereals, beans, cooking oil and salt when they leave the reception centre.

At the moment, Meheba-Cazombo is the only accessible land route between the two countries because of poor roads, broken bridges and landmines. To access other parts of Angola, various possibilities are being discussed with the government and IOM, including road rehabilitation and airlifts.

In preparation for this year's returns, UNHCR improved the road to Cazombo which was in bad condition after the rainy season. We also rehabilitated departure centres and way-stations to make the journey more comfortable for the returnees.

The plan is to have weekly convoys with numbers of those repatriating increasing per convoy.

As the repatriation from Meheba continues, Angolan refugees in Ukwimi and Mayukwayukwa destined for Cazombo will also be repatriated starting July. As soon as other repatriation corridors by land, air or water become available, the repatriation to Angola from Zambia will become simultaneous in all camps/settlements.

The breakdown of numbers from Zambia is: Some 18,000 from Meheba Refugee Settlement; 12,000 from Mayukwayukwa Refugee Settlement; 8,000 from Nangweshi Camp; and 2,000 from Ukwimi Camp. In all, a total of 145,000 Angolans are expected to return home this year from asylum countries, including 90,000 with UNHCR assistance.

At the time the peace accords were signed in April 2002, about 441,000 Angolan refugees were estimated to be living in bordering countries. Since then, an estimated 218,000 have returned home, including 76,000 in 2003 under UNHCR's voluntary repatriation programme. UNHCR estimates 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.