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Agency Wraps Up Its Angola Repatriation Operation


UN Refugee Agency Wraps Up Its Angola Repatriation Operation

A final batch of Angolans returned home from Botswana Monday, marking the end of a three-year-long, United Nations-sponsored repatriation programme that has brought back more than 123,000 Angolans since the end of the country’s bloody civil war.

About 500,000 Angolans have been repatriated, with or without assistance from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), since the April 2002 ceasefire that brought Angola’s 27-year civil war to an end. "This operation has been of great benefit to the country, the countries of asylum and UNHCR," said the Deputy Representative of UNHCR in Angola, Annette Rita Nyekan.

The 42 refugees, who arrived in Menonge in southern Angola, were given a cash grant and other assistance to travel onto their home villages and resume their lives. Each person also received a two-month food ration from the United Nations World Food Programme.

This year alone, more than 28,000 Angolans returned with UNHCR’s help from neighboring countries – primarily Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Within Angola, UNHCR has also helped an additional 89,000 people who arrived home on their own.

During the three-year period, most refugees returned by roads that first had to be made safe after decades of damage by war and neglect. Destroyed bridges had to be rebuilt and roads swept for mines repeatedly before UNHCR began running returnee convoys.

At year’s end, there will still be an estimated 96,000 Angolan refugees living outside the nation, including people in camps in Zambia, DRC and Namibia; urban refugees caring for themselves; and those registered as settled in other countries. Most of the Angolan refugees remaining in camps have shown little desire to repatriate and a similar level of assistance will continue for them next year in the countries where they received asylum.

The end of the repatriation phase of UNHCR’s operations means the focus can now swing solidly toward the resettlement programmes, which have already been operating for previous returnees. National elections are tentatively scheduled for 2006 and the nation’s oil-based economy is developing despite widespread poverty.

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