ZAMBIA: Angolan refugee repatriation to re-start
LUSAKA, 27 February 2009 (IRIN) - The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is to resume voluntary repatriation of Angolan refugees from Zambia, two years after the programme was formally ended, due to the growing numbers of asylum seekers willing to return home.
James Lynch, UNHCR country director for Zambia, said assisted repatriation was expected to resume in May 2009, and would apply to both camp-based refugees and those self-settled within Zambian communities.
It would mark the last opportunity for the Angolans to be helped home by the UN agency, he said.
"In view of the large number of Angolan refugees still living in Zambia, coupled with the fact that the cessation clause has not yet been invoked ... the voluntary repatriation of Angolan refugees remaining in Zambia will resume in May 2009, after the rains have ceased," Lynch told IRIN.
Zambia is home to a total of 27,073 Angolan refugees, out of which 6,964 have expressed a desire to return, according to UNHCR. The Angolans are in Mayukwayukwa and Meheba refugee settlements in western Zambia, while others have settled independently in the North-Western, Western, Copperbelt, Southern and Central provinces.
Lynch said the UNHCR would provide assistance to all refugees wishing to return in the form of food rations and transportation, as well as support to the Angolan government with the re-integration of the returnees.
Voluntary repatriation from Zambia started in 2003 under a tripartite agreement between the governments of Angola and Zambia, and the UNHCR. The exercise formally ended in 2007. Under the programme, over 74,000 Angolans were helped home, while many more living outside the camps returned under their own steam.
Angola's 27-year civil war, which forced hundreds of thousands of refugees into neighbouring countries, ended in 2002 following the death of rebel leader, Jonas Savimbi. Some Angolans have been in Zambia for nearly four decades.
Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Migration, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs
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