By Kelvin Shimo
Scores of Angolan refugees have presented visiting UNHCR Executive Committee (ExCom) Chairman Jan Knutson with a catalogue of reasons why they wish not to repatriate to Angola but seek to permanently reside in Zambia.
The UNHCR ExCom Chairman – who was visiting Mayukwayukwa Refugee Settlement in Western Zambia on a familiarisation tour on Friday 1 June, accompanied by several high ranking Government officials who included Western Province Minister John Kufuna, UN Resident Co-ordinator and UNHCR Representative – had mixed reactions from Angolan refugees
regarding voluntary repatriation to their home country.
During a meeting with Angolan refugees in the settlement, some of them expressed interest to repatriate, citing peace prevailing in Angola as a factor and the fact that some family members had already repatriated.
However, the majority of the Angolan refugees in the meeting explained that they could not return home for various reasons, which, among other things, included the fact that they were born, married to Zambians, while other have lived in this country for as long as 46 years, thus have no other country they could call home other than Zambia.
“Some of us were born here, have gone to school here. Others have married Zambians, while our parents came when they were young and have lived in this settlement for 46 years and know no other country they could call home other than Zambian. We were taught in English and we don’t know Portuguese and the culture we know is Zambia,” elucidated one of the Angolan refugees to the visiting delegation.”We cannot start a new life in Angola. Its like making us refugees all over again. We now
owe our allegiance to Zambia”
Some of the Angolan refugees characterised the peace currently prevailing in Angola as fragile and not sustainable.
Notwistanding the aforementioned reasons given by Angolan refugees, Western Province Minister Kufuna encouraged the Angolan refugees to take advantage of the assistance currently available from UNHCR and the Government of Zambia to repatriate voluntarily, assuring them that the peace currently prevailing in Angola was sustainable and they should be
part of the economic development taking place in their home country.
The Minister’s message was reiterated by Angolan Embassy First Secretary for Political Affairs, who was part of the UNHCR ExCom Chairman’s delegation to Mayukwayukwa.
UNHCR Representative, Ms. Joyce Mends-Cole assured the Angolan refugees that her agency would ensure and maintain the voluntary nature of the repatriation exercise.
The Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Jacob Mphepo, informed the Angolan refugees that while the repatriation was voluntary, there should bear in mind that as of 30 June, the cessation clause will be invoked. Once the cessation is invoked, the Angolan refugees will lose their refugee status and immigration laws will come into effect.
The UNHCR ExCom Chairman, who is on a four-day official visit to Zambia, visited various projects in Mayukwayukwa. Prior to the visit to Mayukwayukwa, the UNHCR ExCom Chairman had bilateral meetings with the Zambian Vice President Dr. Guy Scot and Home Affairs Minister Mr. Kennedy Sakeni. The ExCom is UNHCR’s policy-making body and comprises
87 country members.
Zambia currently hosts some 46, 000 refugees mostly from Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The vast majority reside in two settlements – Mayukwayuka in Western Province and Meheba in Northwest
Province, while others live in urban areas or are self-settled in various locations