As part of its ongoing voluntary repatriation programme to Angola, the United Nations refugee agency is scheduled to fly home over the next two weeks some 303 Angolan refugees who have been living in cities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Two flights, one planned for 12 June and the other for 19 June, will airlift the refugees from the capital of Kinshasa to the Angolan capital Luanda. Six families consisting of 25 individuals are from Lubumbashi, DRC's second largest city, located in south-eastern DRC, 2,000 km east of the capital. The rest are from Kinshasa. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) plans to repatriate the remaining 1,500 urban Angolan refugees by the end of the year.
Before departing DRC, the refugees will spend the night in a transit centre in Kinshasa where they will receive meals and a cash grant of about $100 to help them start a new life when they return home. After arriving in Luanda, the refugees will be given food and non-food items, UNHCR said.
The Angolan Government insists on tracing the families of refugees in Luanda as a prerequisite for urban Angolan nationals wishing to return. This is a painstaking and lengthy process, the UN refugee agency also said.
UNHCR started its airlift of urban refugees in DRC last year with three flights bringing home 624 urban Angolan refugees. Over 2,400 Angolan refugees sought shelter during Angola's nearly three decade-long civil war.
There are currently an estimated 24,000 Angolan refugees in camps and settlements in DRC, the majority in the provinces of Bandundu and Bas Congo bordering Angola's northern provinces. There are also an estimated 72,000 Angolan refugees in DRC who have settled spontaneously. UNHCR said it would continue organizing refugee returns to Angola from DRC throughout the year, mainly by land.