Angola: UN refugee agency signs repatriation agreements with Namibia and Zambia
Angola and the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) have signed separate agreements with Namibia and Zambia under a programme which would allow the voluntary return of 450,000 Angolan refugees in southern Africa.
The agreements, which provide the legal framework for voluntary repatriation, include provisions for tax waiver, amnesty, go-and-see visits to home villages, transport, accommodation, family reunification and reintegration.
Following yesterday’s signing of the tripartite agreements in Luanda, commissions were set up to start repatriating 211,000 Angolan refugees in Zambia and 24,000 in Namibia.
An agency spokesman predicted that similar agreements would be signed later this year for the return of 193,000 Angolans from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), 16,000 from the Republic of Congo and 10,000 from South Africa. An estimated 50,000 Angolan refugees are living outside Africa.
Appealing for $34.5 million to cover the costs of repatriating about 170,000 Angolans in 2003, UNHCR says it will organize the first returns at the end of the rainy season next May or June.
One of the world’s longest-running refugee caseloads, UNHCR says it had twice – in 1992 and 1995 – attempted to begin repatriation of Angolans from the DRC, Zambia and Namibia, but the exercise was interrupted when the ceasefire collapsed.
Meanwhile, about 70,000 Angolans are reported to have returned spontaneously since the April signing of a peace agreement between the Angolan Government and the rebel National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), according to UNHCR.