By Kelvin Shimo (UNHCR)
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Thursday re-commenced the organised Angolan voluntary repatriation from Zambia, with 37 refugees repatriating to Angola’s Huambo Province on one flight from Mongu Airport in Western Province.
UNHCR Representative in Zambia, Ms Joyce Mends-Cole, described the continuation of the Angolan organised voluntary repatriation in 2012 as a critical step in the search for durable solutions, before the invocation of the cessation clause on 30 June.
“UNHCR’s top priority for the Zambia Operation in 2012 is to support the achievement of durable solutions for Angolan and other refugees. The resumption today is simply a continuation of the Angolan repatriation exercise from last year. However, this phase in 2012 is
special in that it marks the final stage of the Angolan voluntary repatriation, as from 30 June, cessation of refugee status will be invoked, which means that Angolan refugees will no longer be considered in need of international protection,” she explained. “There should be always an end to a protracted refugee situation and this one has lasted for forty years,” said Ms Mends-Cole.
Organised Angolan voluntary repatriation was initially undertaken between 2003 and 2007 during which a total of 74, 000 refugees were assisted to return home from Zambia’s camps and settlements. In addition, according to reports from Angola, thousands of self-settled refugees returned home on their own during that period.
Even after the official end of the organised voluntary repatriation in 2007, Angolan refugees continued to return home from the settlements of Meheba in North Western and Mayukwayukwa in Western Provinces, through spontaneous repatriation. A total 2, 500 Angolans returned home between 2007 and 2010 under this exercise.
The recommencement of the organised repatriation was agreed at the Fifth Tripartite meeting between the Government of Zambia, the Executive of Angolan and UNHCR held in Livingstone from 1 to 2 April 2011. Since the organized repatriation program resumed in June 2011, UNHCR has
facilitated the return of almost 2,400 refugees to Angola. Another 7,000 refugees had expressed an intention to return and UNHCR is continuing its efforts to raise funds to ensure this occurs.
UNHCR is working in collaboration with the International Organisationfor Migration (IOM), which is facilitating logistics and transportation for the refugees from the settlements to the final destination in Angola.
Refugees participating in the repatriation will benefit from transport assistance and a re-integration package provided by the Angolan Executive upon return to Angola.
Some 22, 000 Angolans in the two settlements, urban areas and self-settled still reside in Zambia.