Slow-down in Angolan refugee returns from DR of Congo, UN agency reports

Slow-down in Angolan refugee returns from DR of Congo, UN agency reports

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Amid reports of difficult conditions prevailing in their home country, Angolan refugees from settlements in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have slowed down their spontaneous returns, particularly in the last week, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.

Rather than walk long distances and face difficult living conditions once home, Angolan refugees in the DRC have informed the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that they preferred to wait for agency-sponsored repatriation next year to ease their reintegration, UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski said in Geneva.

"They said refugees who had already gone back claimed that famine and the lack of schools and medical facilities in the return zones in Angola made reintegration extremely difficult," Mr. Janowski told reporters at a press briefing.

Only 660 returns have been recorded so far in August, and those came from settlements close to the border, Mr. Janowski said. In comparison, an average of 1,500 returns were recorded each month between February and July this year.

Beyond an estimated 9,500 recorded returns, an unknown number of refugees have left sites for Angola without reporting their departure to UNHCR, Mr. Janowski said.

According to the UN agency, there are nearly 200,000 registered refugees in the DRC, most of whom arrived in four large waves - in 1983, 1990, 1998 and 2000.