UN refugee agency launches repatriation airlifts to Angola, Southern Sudan

UN refugee agency launches repatriation airlifts to Angola, Southern Sudan

Repatriation of Sudanese refugees
Thousands of refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic (CAR) are scheduled to be airlifted to their respective homes in Angola and Sudan in the coming months under United Nations repatriation programmes, the UN refugee agency reported today.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees launched an airlift for some 12,700 Angolans in Bas Congo in the DRC. Once completed later this month, it will mark the end of the agency’s four-year repatriation programme for hundreds of thousands of Angolans after a peace accord in 2002 ended 27 years of civil war, during which 500,000 people fled their homeland and millions more were internally displaced.

Upon arrival in Angola, returnees are vaccinated for yellow fever and receive financial aid to reach their final destination. Since June 2003, some 370,000 Angolan refugees have returned home, including nearly 180,000 from the DRC.

Further to the north, UNHCR has resumed the repatriation of southern Sudanese refugees from northern CAR after fighting there forced it to suspend the operation for eight months.

The agency plans to repatriate some 8,000 Sudanese by the middle of next year. More than 2,100 refugees have returned home since February under an agreement between UNHCR, CAR and Sudan. Some 92,000 Sudanese refugees have returned home from neighbouring countries. Of this number, more than 18,000 returned home with UNHCR assistance.

The CAR Government agreed to open a humanitarian corridor for the sole purpose of repatriating Sudanese by air. The repatriation follows last year’s peace agreement between the Sudanese Government and southern rebels that ended 21 years of civil war during which half a million Sudanese fled their homeland and 4 million more were internally displaced.

Returnees face serious challenges due to the lack of infrastructure and skilled personnel in areas such as health and education and UNHCR, through implementing partners, is rehabilitating some health care centres, maternity wards and primary schools, though many classes are now taught under trees. The agency is also providing safe water by drilling boreholes.