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Zambia: Voluntary repatriation programme for Angolan refugees suspends

Briefing notes

Zambia: Voluntary repatriation programme for Angolan refugees suspends

4 November 2003

We are preparing to suspend our voluntary repatriation programme for Angolan refugees in Zambia during the rainy season, when roads become impassable. The last convoy will set out from Zambia for Cazombo in Angola's western province of Moxico on Nov. 11. This is the main destination of Angolan refugees in Zambia. Our repatriation activities will resume at the end of the rainy season in May.

The decision to suspend was made last week during a meeting of representatives of Angola, Zambia, UNHCR and other agencies involved in the repatriation operations in Zambia. However, organized returns from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Namibia will continue to areas in Angola that are accessible.

Since the repatriation programme began in June, more than 41,000 Angolans have joined UNHCR convoys, including 17,600 from Zambia, 20,000 from the Democratic Republic of Congo and 3,500 from Namibia. In addition, UNHCR has provided assistance to some 20,000 spontaneous returnees. In all, we estimate some 150,000 Angolans have returned home spontaneously, bringing the total number to have returned home to nearly 200,000.

We are assisting Angolans to go back only to areas which have the basic infrastructure to allow them to begin a new life. We believe repatriation will be very difficult in 40 percent of the primary areas of returns because of the lack of water and sanitation, medical and other social services. Wide areas of Angola are also heavily mined.

An estimated 440,000 Angolans were in neighbouring countries before UNHCR launched its repatriation programme. But large numbers of refugees and internally displaced people have been returning home since a peace agreement last year ended three decades of civil conflict. We estimate about 240,000 remain outside their homeland.