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Former Angolan refugees return home from Botswana after more than 20 years in exile

By United Nations - Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Former Angolan refugees return home from Botswana after more than 20 years in exile
Former Angolan refugees return home from Botswana after more than 20 years in exile

GABORONE, Botswana, October 14, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Some 178 Angolans who had been living as refugees in Botswana, some for more than two decades, returned home over the past weekend with the assistance of UNHCR and the Governments of Botswana and Angola.

The Government of Botswana invoked the cessation of refugee status for the Angolan refugees on 1 July 2013 following UNHCR's recommendation to States to implement the Comprehensive Solutions Strategy for Angolan refugees as announced in October 2009. The Government set a deadline of 31 October 2013 for the Angolans to return to Angola.

UNHCR is assisting the Angolans in Botswana to return home in safety and dignity. UNHCR provided buses and trucks to transport the returning Angolan families and their belongings including beds, corrugated roofing iron sheets and other common household items, back to Angola. UNHCR also provided returnees with cash grants of 100 USD per adult and 50 USD per child, to assist them with their reintegration. Prior to departure, the Angolan consulate in Botswana issued the returnees with travel documents and identity cards.

The convoy of four buses and one trucks left Dukwi refugee camp in Botswana last Thursday to begin the two day journey by road, which takes them via Namibia back to Angola. They arrived in Katwitwi, in Cuando Cubango province in Angola where they are being assisted by the Government of Angola and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR to proceed to their home villages and to start the reintegration process.

Over 350 Angolans of the 450 Angolans in Botswana have already registered for voluntary repatriation since August 2013 after the cessation clause was officially announced by the Government of Botswana.

The remainder of these individuals will be assisted by UNHCR in the coming weeks to return to Angola.

For the last three years, UNHCR has been working with countries hosting Angolan refugees to implement a solution strategy aimed at bringing to an end one of Africa's oldest refugee situations.

“The conflict that caused Angolans to flee their country came to an end over a decade ago. There is no reason for Angolans to remain in refugee camps, when they can go back home and enjoy their rights as Angolan citizens,” says UNHCR Regional Representative for Southern Africa, Ms. Clementine Nkweta-Salami

UNHCR recommended that as of 30 June 2012, countries hosting Angolan refugees invoke the cessation of refugee status for those Angolans who fled the two armed conflicts that took place between 1961 and 2002. The war of independence from Portugal (1961-1975) followed by the Angolan civil war (1975-2002). Human costs of these conflicts were significant with over 500,000 killed, some 4 million displaced many of whom fled to the neighbouring countries and elsewhere. The civil war ended in 2002 allowing peace in the country.

While the majority of the Angolan refugees (520,000) have since returned to their country of origin, more than 100,000 remain in exile.

In Africa, DRC hosts the largest number of Angolans (74,500) followed by Zambia (23,000), Namibia (2,100) South Africa (5700), and the Republic of Congo (800).

The Governments of DRC, South Africa, Namibia and Zambia have also offered opportunities for the local integration of former Angolan refugees who have strong ties to the host countries and who meet the agreed upon criteria. The option for local integration was not extended to former Angolan refugees in Botswana and after 31 October 2013, the remaining Angolans will be subject to its immigration laws.