UNHCR resumes return programme for more than 40,000 Angolan refugees

News Stories, 4 November 2011

© UNHCR/G.Dubourthoumieu
UNHCR staff help prepare the Angolan refugees for their return home.

LUVO, Angola, November 4 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency today relaunched a repatriation programme that should see more than 40,000 Angolan civilians return to their homes after living for years in a western border region of Democratic Republic of the Congo.

A first group of 252 people crossed into northern Angola on seven buses Friday afternoon after leaving the Congolese town of Kimpese in Bas-Congo province earlier in the day. They received a warm welcome at a transit centre in the town of Luvo by Angolan Minister for Assistance and Social Reintegration João Baptista Kussumua and other officials.

The minister said it was an important moment for Angola. "We are starting today the repatriation process which will result in the return of 43,000 refugees," he said. "We have a responsibility to the childen who return today to make sure they will be able to study," Kussumua added.

One of the homeward-bound refugees, 57-year-old Emma, was delighted to be going back after 12 years in Angola. "Today, my dream to go back home comes true," he said. "I am happy because I lose the name 'refugee,' I'm no longer a refugee."

Organized large-scale voluntary returns of Angolans from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) stopped in 2007 because of logistical and other difficulties at that time. But DRC is today still home to some 80,000 Angolans refugees, some of whom have been in exile for decades. A UNHCR survey last year found that 43,000 people were still interested in going home.

A new agreement signed in June this year by Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo and UNHCR paved the way for the latest repatriation operation. To date, around 20,000 people have signed up for UNHCR help with returning and two return convoys per week are planned.

Refugees have told UNHCR staff that they want to go home because of the improved prospects for peace in Angola; for family reunions; because they feel they would be better off at home; or due to homesickness.

In preparation for today's return, the refugees were taken on Thursday to a transit centre in Kimpese from their villages and settlements spread over the rolling countryside. They went through medical screening, were given vaccinations and received their voluntary repatriation forms, which will serve as an identity document until they have their Angolan ID cards.

Angola has assured all refugees that the authorities will help them with housing, micro credit, vocational training and other reintegration projects that will help them become self-sufficient. UNHCR will monitor their well-being for up to 18 months.

The repatriation of Angolan refugees is also taking place from other countries in the sub-Saharan region. Return operations from Republic of Congo are expected to start soon, while a few weeks ago some 1,700 Angolan refugees left for home from Zambia.

Large-scale returns can involve huge logistical challenges. Roads and bridges have to be repaired a task that becomes more challenging with the start of the rainy season.

Some 113,000 Angolan refugees remain in the DRC, the Republic of Congo, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia. In October, UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration jointly appealed for US$21 million to help Angolan refugees return home from their countries of asylum. So, UNHCR has received just US$8 million.

By Celine Schmitt in Luvo, Angola

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

Repatriation

UNHCR works with the country of origin and host countries to help refugees return home.

DR Congo Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Intense fighting has forced more than 64,000 Congolese to flee the country in recent months.

Donate to this crisis

Returnees in Myanmar

During the early 1990s, more than 250,000 Rohingya Muslims fled across the border into Bangladesh, citing human rights abuses by Myanmar's military government. In exile, refugees received shelter and assistance in 20 camps in the Cox's Bazaar region of Bangladesh. More than 230,000 of the Rohingya Muslims have returned since 1992, but about 22,000 still live in camps in Bangladesh. To promote stability in returnee communities in Myanmar and to help this group of re-integrate into their country, UNHCR and its partner agencies provide monitors to insure the protection and safety of the returnees as well as vocational training, income generation schemes, adult literacy programs and primary education.

Returnees in Myanmar

Lebanese Returnees Receive Aid

UNHCR started distributing emergency relief aid in devastated southern Lebanese villages in the second half of August. Items such as tents, plastic sheeting and blankets are being distributed to the most vulnerable. UNHCR supplies are being taken from stockpiles in Beirut, Sidon and Tyre and continue to arrive in Lebanon by air, sea and road.

Although 90 percent of the displaced returned within days of the August 14 ceasefire, many Lebanese have been unable to move back into their homes and have been staying with family or in shelters, while a few thousand have remained in Syria.

Since the crisis began in mid-July, UNHCR has moved 1,553 tons of supplies into Syria and Lebanon for the victims of the fighting. That has included nearly 15,000 tents, 154,510 blankets, 53,633 mattresses and 13,474 kitchen sets. The refugee agency has imported five trucks and 15 more are en route.

Posted on 29 August 2006

Lebanese Returnees Receive Aid

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

As a massive food distribution gets underway in six UNHCR-run camps for tens of thousands of internally displaced Congolese in North Kivu, the UN refugee agency continues to hand out desperately needed shelter and household items.

A four-truck UNHCR convoy carrying 33 tonnes of various aid items, including plastic sheeting, blankets, kitchen sets and jerry cans crossed Wednesday from Rwanda into Goma, the capital of the conflict-hit province in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The aid, from regional emergency stockpiles in Tanzania, was scheduled for immediate distribution. The supplies arrived in Goma as the World Food Programme (WFP), with assistance from UNHCR, began distributing food to some 135,000 displaced people in the six camps run by the refugee agency near Goma.

More than 250,000 people have been displaced since the fighting resumed in August in North Kivu. Estimates are that there are now more than 1.3 million displaced people in this province alone.

Posted on 6 November 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

Almost Home Play video

Almost Home

Former Angolan refugees, in exile for as many as three decades, are given the opportunity to locally integrate in neighboring Zambia with the help of UNHCR and the Zambian Government.
Our Sister, Our Mother - 2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award Laureate
Play video

Our Sister, Our Mother - 2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award Laureate

The 2013 winner of UNHCR`s Nansen Refugee Award is Sister Angelique Namaika, who works in the remote north east region of Democratic Republic of the Congo with survivors of displacement and abuse by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). She has helped over 2000 displaced women and girls who have suffered the most awful kidnapping and abuse, to pick up the pieces of their lives and become re-accepted by their communities.
Uganda: New Camp, New ArrivalsPlay video

Uganda: New Camp, New Arrivals

Recent fighting in eastern Congo has seen thousands of civilians flee to a new camp, Bubukwanga, in neighboring Uganda.