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Angola’s poor roads hold up UN refugee repatriation programme

Angola’s poor roads hold up UN refugee repatriation programme

Angolan refugees
The United Nations refugee agency reported today that poor roads were hampering its voluntary repatriation programme for Angolans returning home from Zambia, where they had sought refuge from three decades of civil war which ended two years ago, with only a fifth of the expected number going back so far this year.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had planned to help 40,000 Angolans return home from neighbouring Zambia before the start of the rainy season in November, but only 8,354 have returned so far. Zambia hosted a total of 71,420 Angolan refugees in camps and settlements at the start of repatriation season in mid-June.

"Angolan roads are in bad condition, bridges are broken and there are problems with landmines," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva.

Most of the returnees have gone home on UNHCR convoys through two land corridors, but two air routes have been opened for areas not accessible by road.

Overall, UNHCR has helped more than 100,000 Angolans return home from neighbouring countries since it started the voluntary repatriation programme in June last year. Another estimated 150,000 have returned on their own.

At the time peace accords were signed between the Government and rebels in April 2002, more than 441,000 Angolans were estimated to have sought refuge in bordering countries, leaving some 200,000 still living in the major asylum states – the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Zambia, Namibia and the Republic of the Congo.