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Plane Boosts UN Repatriation Of Angolan Refugees

Extra Plane Boosts UN Repatriation Of Angolan Refugees

Seeking to ensure the return of 22,000 Angolans from camps in Zambia by the end of the year despite the upcoming rainy season, the United Nations refugee agency has boosted both land and air transport as part of a broader programme that has already repatriated nearly 200,000 people who fled the country’s long civil war.

The inter-governmental International Organization for Migration (IOM), which is handling the transport of refugees from Zambia for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has secured a second plane for the operation.

“The additional plane, an Antonov, will lead to an additional 120 more refugees being repatriated to Angola each day,” UNHCR's Regional Representative in Zambia, Ahmed Said Farah said.

Some 86,000 Angolans have returned from Zambia since 2003 after a peace agreement the previous year ended nearly three decades of a devastating war between the Government and rebels. So far this year, more than 15,000 have gone home under the UNHCR repatriation programme, after it resumed on 10 May. About 12,000 of these were transported by air.

Last month the agency opened a new route home for nearly 6,500 Angolans in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), another major refugee destination.

Since 2002, a total of more than 333,000 Angolans have returned home from all countries, nearly 200,000 of them with UNHCR assistance, Mr. Farah said.

The organized repatriation is scheduled to end this year, as the number of Angolans remaining outside the country and planning to return dwindles. But the programme may still be extended for operational reasons into the first quarter of 2006.

UNHCR says its main focus next year will be on supporting the re-integration of the returnees in their home areas – which include some of the most isolated and heavily damaged parts of Angola.

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