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100th UN refugee repatriation convoy returns to Angola

100th UN refugee repatriation convoy returns to Angola

The United Nations refugee agency’s 100th repatriation convoy of Angolan refugees returned home this week, bringing to 67,000 the number of returnees so far this year who have received direct UN assistance amid plans to boost the pace to 145,000 next year.

There were an estimated 440,000 Angolan refugees in neighbouring countries when the April 2002 ceasefire was signed ending Angola's 27-year-long civil war. Some 200,000 have returned with the repatriation convoys organized by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or on their own.

Since the UNHCR convoys started in June this year, more than 43,000 Angolans have been transported back from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Zambia and Namibia, averaging 10,000 returnees each month during the dry season. The latest convoy brought 247 refugees from the DRC.

An additional 24,000 Angolans who returned on their own have been assisted once back with food, blankets, plastic sheeting and other items and in-country transport to areas declared open for return, for a total number of 67,000 Angolans who have received direct UN refugee agency assistance so far this year.

“We expect the number of returning refugees to decline as the rainy season slows movement across much of the country,” UNHCR spokesman Rupert Colville told a briefing in Geneva.

But he added: “We expect to boost the pace of the repatriation operation over 2004 and help some 145,000 Angolans to go back.”