Lusaka- Zambia (PANA) -- The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is to begin organised voluntary repatriation of Angolan refugees from camps in Zambia in April next year, an official of the agency said here Saturday.
Kelvin Shimo, UNHCR public information officer for Zambia, told PANA that about 40,000 refugees would be repatriated in 2003 and 30,000 more in 2004.
So far around 5,000 Angolan refugees have spontaneously gone back to Angola from refugee settlements of Meheba and Mayukwayukwa in northwestern and western Zambia respectively.
Zambian officials estimate 6,000 self-settled refugees from border areas have left on their own to Moxico and Kuando- Kubango regions of Angola.
Next year's repatriation exercise by the UNHCR will run parallel to a government programme known as 'Zambia Initiative', a project aimed at bridging the gap between relief and development.
It is being spearheaded by the Government and facilitated by the UNHCR with the aim of taking development to refugee hosting areas of western Zambia.
"We are aware that some long staying refugees may opt to remain in Zambia," Shimo said.
In preparation for the movement of returnees to Angola, a country fraught with booby traps and landmines, a landmine awareness and sensitization programme is under way at Meheba refugee camp.
Zambia is hosting more than 280,000 refugees, most of them from Angola.