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IOM Resumes Voluntary Repatriation Of Angolan Refugees

By International Office of Migration (IOM)

GENEVA, Switzerland, February 14, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- IOM, in partnership with UNHCR, has resumed, since January 20th, 2012, the provision of voluntary return assistance to 53,370 Angolan refugees scheduled to be repatriated this year, out of 176, 000 persons still in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Zambia, Namibia, Republic of Congo and Botswana, almost ten years since the end of the civil war in Angola.

As many as 600,000 people fled the country during the Angolan civil war which ended in 2002. Over the last few years, IOM, UNHCR and other partners have assisted many of them to return home. However, the programme has been halted several times due to a combination of lack of funds, post-election tensions in the DRC and other logistical challenges.

IOM's current repatriation operation is anticipated to assist 4,882 persons return home from Zambia, the DRC, Namibia and Botswana.

The most recent returnee convoy reached Angola from the DRC on Monday 13th February. It transported 2,517 refugees in a convoy of 12 trucks from an IOM transit centre in the capital Kinshasa.

Another group of 106 returnees left yesterday from the Dilolo camp, in the Katanga province of the DRC to Luau Municipality in Moxico Province, Angola.

At the transit camp, the identities of the returnees are cross-checked by UNHCR and the Angolan consulate. Medical screening is routinely carried out by IOM doctors who check whether the returnees are healthy for the journey. The returnees are also vaccinated according to Angolan public health standards.

Meanwhile, another group consisting of 2,365 returnees is scheduled to be transported on 49 charter flights out of Lusaka, Zambia. Commercial flights will also be used to transport a small group of 29 returnees from Botswana and six from Namibia.

In the DRC, IOM has built transit camps for the Angolan refugees returning to the Zaire province of Angola at Kimpese, in Bas-Congo province of the DRC, and for those going to Moxico province at Dilolo in Katanga.

In Angola, IOM, working closely with UNHCR and the Angolan Ministry of Social Welfare and Reintegration (MINARS) is the lead organization in the provision of road transport from the countries of refuge to the final destinations, database management, and of fuel for trucks and planes, landing rights and the provision of medical escorts for vulnerable individuals.

IOM also coordinates and organizes the distribution of the social reintegration kits and food assistance packages provided by MINARS.

Upon arrival in Angola, the returnees are accommodated at reception and transit centres constructed by MINARS with IOM support, in the main areas of return in the provinces of Bengo, Huambo, Moxico and Zaire.

There are currently nine IOM transit centres up and running in Angola to cater for the returnees, while additional centres will be established in the coming weeks.

The Government, through MINARS, provides the returnees with social reintegration kits, food rations, including household items, "do-it-yourself" construction tools, plastic sheeting, blankets, agricultural tools and income generation activities.

In 2011, IOM in collaboration with UNHCR helped in the voluntary return of a total of 4,243 Angolans from Zambia, DRC, Namibia and Botswana through land convoys and airlift operations.

In order to assist the remaining Angolans who wish to return to their country safely, humanely and with dignity, IOM has appealed for 14,297,624 USD to cover its operations in Angola, the DRC and Zambia for year 2012. To date, only 4,530,296 USD have so far been received.