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UN Closes Congolese Sites As Refugees Return Home

UN Closes Congolese Sites As Angolan Refugees Return Home

New York, May 31 2005 12:00PM

With the assistance of the United Nations refugee agency, the final convoy of Angolan refugees has returned home from a southern province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), ending a refugee program that has run for 20 years.

Hundreds of people gathered on Friday at the border crossing in Dilolo, DRC, to bid farewell to the 263 refugees on their way home from Kisenge in Katanga province, in a convoy of 15 trucks and buses of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). As the refugees had accumulated many belongings over their sojourn, a few of the vehicles were filled with goods and livestock.

UNHCR has helped 42,400 Angolans go home since the start of the voluntary repatriation in June 2003, and has helped nearly 24,000 refugees who returned to Angola on their own.

While returnees say they are glad to go back, Kissenge residents say they will miss the agricultural produce they provided to the marketplace. Residents will also miss the aid workers and the UNHCR presence that had become an integral part of the community over the years.

According to the refugee agency, they are leaving behind six fully-equipped schools, as well as health facilities. About 600 Angolan refugees have also chosen to stay in the area.

Some 22,000 Angolans remain in refugee camps and settlements elsewhere in the DRC where the voluntary repatriation program will continue. Another 72,000 may seek permission from Congolese authorities to settle there, it said.


ENDS

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