December 12, 2005

UN ends repatriation

The United Nations refugee agency has announced that it had wound up a three-year programme that returned more than 123.000 Angolans to the homeland they fled during civil war. "The return home of a group of 42 Angolan refugees from Botswana marked the end of UNHCR's three-year programme of organised convoys to Angola," said Jennifer Pagonis, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Many refugees have returned by land convoy, but Pagonis said the last UNHCR trip was a flight that took people who had lived in Dukwi refugee camp in Botswana to Menonge in southern Angola, where they were given cash to travel on to their home villages. They were also given food, cooking equipment, tools and seeds. "In total, about half a million Angolans are estimated to have repatriated, with or without UNHCR assistance, since the April 2002 cease-fire that brought to an end Angola's 27-year civil war," Pagonis said. According to her, about 96.000 Angolan refugees will remain outside the country by the end of this year, including those in camps in Zambia, Congo and Namibia, and it was possible some form of repatriation assistance could also be offered to them. Pagonis noted that in addition there was an unknown number of Angolans who have settled in Zambia and Congo. UNHCR is trying to register them and determine whether they want to return to Angola. (News 24, South Africa)

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