After rains end, UN refugee agency resumes repatriation of Angolans in Namibia

After rains end, UN refugee agency resumes repatriation of Angolans in Namibia

The end of the rainy season in parts of southwestern Africa has signalled the resumption of the United Nations refugee agency's repatriation season in Angola, with this year's first convoy of 200 people just returning home from Namibia.

The repatriation of Angolan refugees from Namibia resumed yesterday after a six-month break during the rainy season, according to a spokesman for the UH High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The first convoy of 200 left Osire camp Thursday in Namibia for Cunene province, in the southeast of Angola.

"This convoy marks the official resumption of the repatriation operation to Angola for this year, during which UNHCR expects to transport some 90,000 Angolan refugees from Namibia, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)," Kris Janowski said today in Geneva. Convoys from Zambia and the DRC are expected to resume in June, once the rains are over in those regions and road conditions have improved, through the same return corridors as last year.

UNHCR plans to run convoys from Osire each week. "The camp is still holding some 12,000 refugees who fled their country during the 27-year civil war," Mr. Janowski said, adding that convoys will run first to Cunene, then to Kuando Kubango and finally to other provinces of Angola.

UNCHR and its partners also plan to provide assistance to another 55,000 spontaneous returnees from the three bordering countries, bringing to 145,000 the total number of returnees it will help this year, Mr. Janowski said.

According to Government figures, close to 218,000 Angolan refugees have returned home since a 2002 peace accord was signed between the Angolan Government and rebels of the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). This number includes 45,000 who returned on organized convoys after UNHCR started the repatriation movement last June. Another 30,000 spontaneous returnees received reintegration assistance from the agency last year.