Lusaka, Zambia (PANA) – The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Thursday recommenced the organised Angolan voluntary repatriation from Zambia, with 37 refugees repatriating to Angola’s Huambo Province on one flight from Mongu Airport in Western part of Zambia.
UNHCR Representative in Zambia, 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,” Mends-Cole explained in a statement on Thursday.
She said “There should be always an end to a protracted refugee situation and this one has lasted 40 years."
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 in Zambia, through spontaneous repatriation. According to UNHRC, 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 Zambia government, the Executive of Angolan and UNHCR held in Livingstone, Zambia, last April.
Since the organized repatriation programme 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 said it is continuing its efforts to raise funds to ensure this occurs.
UNHCR is working in collaboration with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which is facilitating logistics and transportation for the refugees from the settlements to the final destination in Angola.
Some 22,000 Angolans in the two settlements, urban areas and self-settled still reside in Zambia.
-0- PANA MM/VAO 1March2012