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2015 UNHCR subregional operations profile - Southern Africa

| Overview |

UNHCR 2015 Southern Africa subregional operations map

Southern Africa currently hosts more than half a million people of concern. At the end of 2013, they included approximately 136,000 refugees, 278,000 asylum-seekers and nearly 1,700 returnees.

Elections held during 2014 in Madagascar, Malawi, and South Africa were peaceful. In Botswana, Namibia and Mozambique, elections are expected during the remaining months of 2014. In Mozambique, discord between the main political parties caused some population movement, but a peace agreement was signed in August 2014. Reports of civil unrest related to the economic crisis continue in Malawi, South Africa and Swaziland.

Governments in the region are concerned about national security, trafficking, human smuggling and abuse of the asylum system, resulting in stricter border controls. National asylum systems in these countries are severely stretched and identifying people in need of international protection is difficult. While nearly all subregional countries are party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, its 1967 Protocol, and the 1969 OAU Convention, most have signed with reservations regarding freedom of movement and employment access. Nearly all the countries, with the exception of Angola and South Africa, have encampment policies that restrict freedom of movement and limit possibilities for self-reliance.

UNHCR supports voluntary repatriation, particularly to Burundi and Rwanda, when conditions are conducive for return. Most governments are also reluctant to offer local integration opportunities, though Namibia, South Africa and Zambia have agreed to locally integrate former Angolan refugees who meet specific criteria. This process is expected to be complete by the end of 2016. Resettlement continues to be an important and effective durable solution in the subregion.

Attacks on foreign-owned businesses continue in South Africa, where most refugees live in urban areas. Similarly, public and official support for refugees has deteriorated in other countries such as Angola, Botswana and Malawi.

People at risk of statelessness in the subregion remain a concern. Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe have signed the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons. The 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness has been signed only by Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland. People at risk of statelessness are found mainly in Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe, but exact numbers are unknown.

| Response and implementation |

With a budget of more than USD 25 million, the South Africa operation is presented in a separate country chapter. For other UNHCR operations in this subregion, please see below.

According to government data, more than 20,000 asylum-seekers and nearly 24,000 refugees reside in Angola. UNHCR will continue working with the authorities to strengthen national refugee legislation and reinforce the country's refugee status determination (RSD) capacity. It will promote policies and standards for the admission of asylum-seekers, including those who arrive within broader migration flows.

The Office will advocate for durable solutions, including facilitating or promoting voluntary repatriation to Burundi, Liberia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.

UNHCR will also continue to work with the Government of Angola on solutions for the more than 80,000 former Angolan refugees remaining mostly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Namibia and Zambia.

Following the repatriation of Angolan refugees, Botswana's refugee and asylum-seeking population has decreased to approximately 3,000 people, most being from the DRC, Namibia, Somalia and Zimbabwe. The encampment policy is strictly enforced; refugees found outside the camp without valid permits can be detained for long periods. This has contributed to create social problems, including survival sex, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), high education dropout rates and substance abuse.

Legislative reform remains a priority for Botswana. The Government has established a working group to review the Refugees Control and Recognition Act of 1967. UNHCR will advocate the country lifting its reservations to the 1951 Refugee Convention and intensify efforts to persuade the authorities to find alternatives to detention. Voluntary repatriation for Namibians and Zimbabweans will be pursued.

The Indian Ocean island States of Comoros, Seychelles and Mauritius do not receive many refugees. UNHCR periodically monitors these countries and tries to find durable solutions quickly when new arrivals are reported. The Office will support the small population of refugees and asylum-seekers in Madagascar and continues working with the Government and civil society to address statelessness.

In Lesotho, there are 30 largely self-reliant refugees and asylum-seekers. UNHCR continues to advocate unconditional citizenship for those refugees who have been in the country for five years or more, in accordance with existing national legislation.

Some 17,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in Malawi mainly originate from Burundi, the DRC and Rwanda. UNHCR will continue supporting the Government of Malawi's RSD process and advocating both the lifting of reservations to the 1951 Refugee Convention and the introduction of a new refugee policy. The Office will endeavour to ensure basic needs of refugees living in Dzaleka camp are met, including food, education and health care. With the local community, UNHCR will run activities to prevent SGBV. To increase individuals' self-sufficiency, training and seed money will be provided to kick-start small-scale businesses. The Office will continue promoting voluntary repatriation when possible and pursue resettlement for refugees who meet the criteria.

A 2013 report warned that a number of people were at risk of statelessness in Malawi. UNHCR will support government efforts to identify and appropriately respond to this by providing training and capacity building.

Mozambique hosts 4,462 refugees and 11,478 asylum-seekers, the majority of whom originate from Burundi, the DRC, Rwanda and Somalia. Of these, 8,475 live in Maratane camp, the country's only refugee camp, where basic services and assistance are provided by line ministries, with substantial UNHCR funding. In partnership with WFP, food distribution is facilitated by UNHCR and implemented by other partners. In 2015, UNHCR, with WFP, will consider transitioning to cash and voucher assistance there.

As Mozambique is a route for mixed migration southwards, UNHCR is involved in reinforcing border-monitoring systems and referral mechanisms in a more protection-sensitive manner, with IOM and the Government. The authorities' flexible approach regarding freedom of movement allows people of concern to enjoy work opportunities or study outside the camp, with 47 per cent of the total population settled in urban centres.

UNHCR will advocate: a more conducive environment for local integration; accession to the two UN Statelessness Conventions, following a pledge made by Mozambique in 2011; and the lifting of reservations made to the 1951 Refugee Convention. Mozambique is a pilot country of the Delivering as One framework, underpinning opportunities for UNHCR to implement programmes with other UN agencies.

In Namibia, there are 3,494 refugees and asylum-seekers and more than 1,700 former Angolan refugees. Nearly all reside in Osire refugee settlement. UNHCR will focus on durable solutions, particularly the local integration of former Angolan refugees and the resettlement of those refugees who remain in the camp, including those from the DRC. The Office will continue strengthening the protection environment, with a view to ensuring the Government assumes full responsibility for protection activities by mid-2015. This will allow UNHCR to phase out its presence, though it will continue supporting the Government, notably in RSD, food assistance and shelter from its regional office in Pretoria.

UNHCR also covers Swaziland from its Pretoria office. At the end of 2013, the refugee population had increased by 25 per cent to 1,045. Approximately half of these refugees are locally integrated and live in urban areas. The Government provides education, health and other services to those who remain in Malindza reception centre, with complementary UNHCR and partner support.

As of mid-2014, some 54,000 refugees and other people of concern were residing in Zambia, most in the two refugee settlements of Meheba and Mayukwayukwa. In 2015, efforts will focus on durable solutions. The Government of Zambia remains committed to honouring a December 2011 pledge to locally integrate 10,000 former Angolan refugees. To facilitate the process, new settlements have been allocated by the Government of Zambia. UNHCR will support the Government in: providing basic services; obtaining donor support for infrastructure improvement; establishing income-generating activities for these integrated communities; and advocating these areas be included in UNDAF and national development plans.

UNHCR will assist refugees through cash-based interventions, rather than food aid, and support governments in ensuring refugees' access to social services.

Zimbabwe hosts more than 8,500 refugees, mainly from the Great Lakes and the Horn of Africa, 85 per cent of whom reside in Tongogara refugee camp. UNHCR's overall protection strategy in Zimbabwe will focus on: strengthening asylum practices, particularly improving RSD; improving documentation, including birth registration; finding durable solutions, particularly through resettlement; and reducing individual protection risks, with a focus on SGBV and child protection. WFP is expected to take over the provision of food assistance, while UNHCR works on improving targeted assistance. Specific attention will be paid to lighting the camp, with a focus on sustainable energy resources.

| Financial information |

The total comprehensive budget for the subregion has been decreasing steadily since 2011's USD 93.9 million. In 2012, it was set at USD 90.5 million, and in 2013, the budget decreased again to USD 83.5 million, mainly due to a reduction in the number of Angolan refugees following application of the cessation clause and its projected budgetary implications. In 2014, the budget for Southern Africa decreased further, to USD 71.8 million, but in 2015 has been set at USD 73.5 million, particularly to support the local integration of Angolans in Zambia, as well as the growing number of new arrivals in Malawi.

UNHCR 2015 budgets for Southern Africa (USD)
Operation 2014
Revised budget
(as of 30 June 2014)
Total 71,808,845 72,179,247 1,352,035 73,531,283
Angola 5,771,320 5,453,056 0 5,453,056
Botswana 5,045,678 4,191,907 0 4,191,907
Malawi 4,345,615 5,612,834 0 5,612,834
Mozambique 5,414,283 4,769,181 380,099 5,149,280
Namibia 3,952,101 546,748 0 546,748
South Africa Regional Office 26,678,041 26,298,812 971,936 27,270,748
Zambia 13,776,664 19,500,008 0 19,500,008
Zimbabwe 6,825,143 5,806,701 0 5,806,701

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2015 Update



Statistical Snapshot*
* As at July 2014
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained. In the absence of Government figures, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in many industrialized countries based on 10 years of individual asylum-seeker recognition.
  3. Persons whose application for asylum or refugee status is pending at any stage in the asylum procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2014. Source: country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and assistance. It also includes people in IDP-like situations. This category is descriptive in nature and includes groups of persons who are inside their country of nationality or habitual residence and who face protection risks similar to those of IDPs but who, for practical or other reasons, could not be reported as such.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2014.
  7. Refers to persons who are not considered as nationals by any State under the operation of its law. This category refers to persons who fall under the agency's statelessness mandate because they are stateless according to this international definition, but data from some countries may also include persons with undetermined nationality.
  8. Refers to individuals who do not necessarily fall directly into any of the other groups but to whom UNHCR may extend its protection and/or assistance services. These activities might be based on humanitarian or other special grounds.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Residing in Angola [1]
Refugees [2] 23,783
Asylum Seekers [3] 20,040
Returned Refugees [4] 643
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Stateless Persons [7] 0
Various [8] 0
Total Population of Concern 44,466
Originating from Angola [1]
Refugees [2] 10,321
Asylum Seekers [3] 1,654
Returned Refugees [4] 643
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Various [8] 72,984
Total Population of Concern 85,602
Government Contributions to UNHCR
Contributions since 2000
2014 0
2013 0
2012 0
2011 0
2010 0
2009 0
2008 0
More info 317,175
Total contribution in USD: 317,175 (rank: 36)
Total contribution in currency: 25,374,022 (AOA)
Unrestricted contribution (USD): -
Donor ranking per GDP: 32
Donor ranking per capita: 36
2006 0
2005 0
More info 296,614
USD 296,614 of which 100% was earmarked at the subregional level.
2003 0
2002 0
2001 0
2000 0
Private Sector Contributions to UNHCR
Contributions since 2006
More info 20,537
As at 15 January 2015
2013 0
More info 190,000

Total contribution in USD: 190,000
Major donorsUSD
Banco Espirito Santo Angola190,000
2011 0
More info 306,824

Total contribution in USD: 306,824
Total contribution in currency: 14,250,000 AOA; 152,000 USD
2009 0
2008 0
2007 0
2006 0

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UNHCR resumes return operation for 43,000 Angolans in DR Congo

The UN refugee agency has resumed a voluntary repatriation programme for Angolan refugees living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Some 43,000 Angolans have said they want to go back home under a project that was suspended four years ago for various reasons. A first group of 252 Angolan civilians left the UNHCR transit centre in the western DRC town of Kimpese on November 4, 2011 They crossed the border a few hours later and were warmly welcomed by officials and locals in Mbanza Congo. In the first two weeks of the repatriation operation, more than 1,000 Angolan refugees returned home from the DRC provinces of Bas-Congo in the west and Katanga in the south. Out of some 113,000 Angolan refugees living in neighbouring countries, 80,000 are hosted by the DRC.

UNHCR resumes return operation for 43,000 Angolans in DR Congo

Photo Gallery: The Challenge of Forced Displacement in Africa

Africa is the continent most affected by the tragedy of forced displacement. While millions of refugees were able to return to Angola, Burundi, Liberia, Rwanda and South Sudan over the last 15 years, the numbers of internally displaced people continued to grow. At the beginning of 2009, in addition to some 2.3 million refugees, an estimated 11.6 million people were internally displaced by conflict in Africa.

To address forced displacement on the continent, the African Union is organizing a special summit on refugees, returnees and internally displaced people from October 19-23 in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. Heads of state and government will look at the challenges and at ways to find solutions to forced displacement. They are also expected to adopt a Convention for the protection and assistance of internally displaced people (IDP) in Africa, which would be the first legally binding instrument on internal displacement with a continental scope. This photo gallery looks at some of the forcibly displaced around Africa, many of whom are helped by UNHCR.

Photo Gallery: The Challenge of Forced Displacement in Africa

Forty Years On, Antonio Goes Home to Angola

Antonio has been waiting 40 years to return to his home village in northern Angola. He fled to Democratic Republic of the Congo when the country was a Portuguese colony, and stayed away through years of civil war and during the peace that followed in 2002. Now, no longer classed as a refugee, he is finally going back.

Seated in a rickety chair in his family's rented apartment in Kinshasa on the eve of his departure, the 66-year-old Angolan was excited. "I feel joy when I think that I will go home. It's better to be a citizen of your own country than a refugee in another country. It's liberation," he said, flanked by his wife, sister and granddaughter.

Photographer Brian Sokol followed the four of them as they began their journey in Kinshasa on August 19, taking a seven-hour train journey to the town of Kimpese in Bas-Congo province and then reaching the border by bus. They were among the first group to go back home with the help of UNHCR under a third and final voluntary repatriation programme since 2002. The family faces many new challenges in Angola, but their joy was far greater than any apprehension. "I will dance when we arrive at the border," said Antonio's sister, Maria. UNHCR is organizing the return of nearly 30,000 former refugees to Angola.

Forty Years On, Antonio Goes Home to Angola

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.

Angola: Home At LastPlay video

Angola: Home At Last

On April 4th, Angola will celebrate five years of peace. The decades-long war is over, but establishing peace has not been easy. UNHCR has been instrumental in bringing Angolans back home, helping them re-start their lives and renew ties with their communities.