Angola: 100th repatriation convoy
Our 100th repatriation convoy of Angolan refugees reached Luau on the eastern edge of Moxico Province this week carrying 247 Angolans arriving back from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Since UNHCR's repatriation convoys started in June this year, more than 43,000 Angolans have been transported back from the DRC, Zambia and Namibia, averaging some 10,000 returnees each month during the dry season. An additional 24,000 Angolans who returned on their own have been assisted once back in Angola with food, blankets, plastic sheeting and other items and in-country transport to areas declared open for return, for a total number of 67,000 Angolans who have received direct UN refugee agency assistance so far this year.
We expect the number of returning refugees to decline as the rainy season slows movement across much of the country. Convoys from Zambia have been suspended until 2004 due to the deteriorating road conditions. Returns are continuing from the DRC's Kimpese and Kisenge regions, although at a slower pace, while UNHCR expects to run convoys from Namibia through the end of November - last week we opened a new repatriation corridor from Namibia to Cuangar, on Angola's southern border, to facilitate returns.
UNHCR's five reception centres in M'banza Congo, Luau, Cazombo, Lumbala N'guimbo and Luena will remain open throughout the rainy season to accommodate spontaneous returnees. A new centre will open at Maquela do Zombo, in northern Uige Province, while the centre in Caiundo in southern Kuando Kubango Province will temporarily close. We will be taking advantage of the rainy season to focus on more than 100 reintegration projects underway in areas of return, including the rehabilitation of schools, health clinics and water points. Once the rainy season ends early next year, repatriation convoys from the DRC, Zambia and Namibia are expected to resume at full steam.
The Angolan voluntary repatriation operation recently received a major boost with a contribution of an additional $1.8 million from the government of Japan for UNHCR's reintegration projects. So far this year $23 million has been pledged from donors including the USA, Japan, Germany, the European Commission, ECHO [European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office] and Canada. UNHCR is seeking to raise an additional $3 million.
There were an estimated 440,000 Angolan refugees in neighbouring countries when the April 2002 ceasefire was signed ending Angola's 27 year-long civil war. Some 200,000 have returned home with the repatriation convoys or on their own. UNHCR's community assistance in areas of return is benefiting all Angolans who have gone back, including both the spontaneous returnees and the 67,000 people who reached their homes with UNHCR help so far this year. We expect to boost the pace of the repatriation operation over 2004 and help some 145,000 Angolans to go back.