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UN agency moves former Angolan rebels to special camp in eastern Zambia

UN agency moves former Angolan rebels to special camp in eastern Zambia

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has transferred over 1,000 former Angolan rebels to a special camp for former combatants set up last year in eastern Zambia in an effort to preserve the civilian nature of the other camps where they had been staying.

A total of 1,065 former combatants and families were transferred in October with another group of about 300 still expecting transfer, UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond told a press briefing in Geneva.

"The move was agreed between UNHCR and the Government of Zambia to address concerns over the civilian character of Nangweshi refugee camp," Mr. Redmond said. "The camp holds over 15,000 Angolan refugees and we need to avoid risks of militarization or recruitment in the camp."

The rebels and their families arrived in Zambia last year after the fall of Jamba, the stronghold of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) in Cuando Cubango province, the agency spokesman said. The group included high commanders of the UNITA rebel movements.

"All of those transferred have laid down their arms - combatants who do not do so are not entitled to refugee status according to the 1951 Geneva Convention," Mr. Redmond said.

Meanwhile, the situation along the Angolan border was still worrisome, with continuous arrivals from Angola into Zambia's Western province, Mr. Redmond said. An estimated additional 1,000 people have also arrived over the past two days in Mambolomoka and Sikongo, in the southwest of Zambia, and about 200 more further north, in the Zambezi district.

"The new arrivals are in deplorable condition, mainly due to the lack of humanitarian assistance in this part of Angola and the fighting," Mr. Redmond said. "The majority are children and there are also many amputees from mine accidents or from recent fighting."

Since last year over 10,000 Angolan asylum seekers have fled to Zambia, bringing to 208,000, the total of Angolan refugees in the country.