Final leg of Angolan refugee repatriation from ZambiaBy AFRICAREVIEW.COM and Agencies | Thursday, March 1 2012 at 20:04
UN refugee agency UNHCR resumed Thursday the voluntary repatriation of Angolans from Zambia, with 37 returned to Huambo Province from Mongu in Zambia's Western Province.
UNHCR representative in Zambia Joyce Mends-Cole described the repatriation as a "critical step" in the search for durable solutions, before the expiry of refugee status on June 30.
“UNHCR’s top priority for the Zambia Operation in 2012 is to support the achievement of durable solutions for Angolan and other refugees. The resumption today is simply a continuation of the Angolan repatriation exercise from last year,” said Ms Mends-Cole.
From June 30, Angolans will no longer enjoy refugee status in Zambia and the international protection this affords.
“There should be always an end to a protracted refugee situation and this one has lasted for 40 years,” said the UNHCR representative.
Organised Angolan voluntary repatriation was initially undertaken between 2003 and 2007 during which a total of 74,000 refugees were assisted to return home from Zambia.
According to reports from Angola, thousands of self-settled refugees returned home on their own during that period.
Even after the official end of the organised voluntary repatriation in 2007, Angolan refugees continued to return home from the settlements of Meheba in North Western and Mayukwayukwa in Western Provinces, through spontaneous repatriation.
A total 2,500 Angolans returned home between 2007 and 2010 under this exercise, according to UNHCR statistics.
The recommencement of the organised repatriation was agreed at a tripartite meeting between Zambia, Angolan and UNHCR officials held in Livingstone in April last year.
Since the organised repatriation programme resumed in June 2011, UNHCR has facilitated the return of almost 2,400 refugees to Angola.
Another 7,000 refugees had expressed an intention to return and UNHCR was continuing to raise funds to ensure this happened.
Refugees participating in the repatriation will benefit from transport assistance and a re-integration package provided by the Angolan Government upon return home.
Some 22,000 Angolans remain resident in Zambia, either in camps, or in urban areas.
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