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Refugee Agency Closes Camp For Angolans In Zambia

UN Refugee Agency Closes Camp For Angolans In Zambia, As Repatriation Nears End

New York, Oct 2 2006 5:00PM

As its four-year programme of voluntary repatriation for Angolans who fled nearly three decades of civil war nears its end on 31 December, the United Nations refugee agency today began transferring some 15,000 people from the Nangweshi refugee camp in western Zambia.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) plans to relocate those who choose not to return home to the Mayukwayukwa refugee settlement, also in Western Province, by the end of October. Although the number of Angolans asking to repatriate this year has been low, it is expected that many of those still in Nangweshi could opt to return home rather than relocate to Mayukwayukwa.

During Angola’s 27-year war, some 500,000 Angolans fled their country and millions more were internally displaced. When a peace agreement was signed in 2002, an estimated 457,000 Angolans were refugees outside the country's borders. Since then, more than 370,000 have returned home, including 123,000 brought back by UNHCR. Many of the rest received UNHCR assistance on arrival.

The closure of Nangweshi, which was set up in 2000 to shelter those fleeing the last convulsion of the civil war, reflects the successful UNHCR voluntary repatriation programme in Zambia, which has helped nearly 64,000 Angolans to return from the country since 2003, leaving only about 29,000 still in camps and settlements.

The relocation to Mayukwayukwa from Nangweshi, with its infertile, sandy soil and seasonal floods, will allow those who opt to remain in Zambia better prospects of self-reliance, especially when humanitarian assistance is eventually withdrawn.

As of July, Zambia was still hosting almost 155,000 refugees, including some 74,000 in camps and the rest settled on their own elsewhere in the country. The great majority of the refugees are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Angola, with most others from elsewhere in the Great Lakes region.

Ends

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