New York, US – The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Friday said that the last group of Angolan refugees arrived in their home country from Botswana on Wednesday afternoon, marking the end of the voluntary repatriation programme.
In a statement, made available to PANA in New York on Friday, the UNHCR said that the convoy, which carried 194 people and their belongings, left the Duwki refugee camp in east Botswana, bringing to 461 the total number of Angolans repatriated from Botswana since June last year.
The UN agency declared cessation for the Angolan refugee situation on 30 June 2012.
However, in the case of Botswana, refugee status was withdrawn by the Government in August and former Angolan refugees were given until 31 October 2013 to return home.
UNHCR spokesperson, Dan McNorton, said that “the convoy journey was a lengthy one of around 1,300 kilometres. It arrived in Angola at the southern town of Katwitwi where temporary shelter arrangements are in place”.
With support from UNHCR and International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the Angolan Government is assisting people to proceed to their home villages from Katwitwi to start a new life.
Nearly half of this week’s returnees are below 17 years in age and were either born in exile or lived most of their life outside of their homeland, Mr. McNorton noted.
He said that UNHCR provided buses and trucks to transport the returnees and their belongings, including beds, corrugated roofing iron sheets and other household items.
Me McNorton disclosed that the agency also provided returnees with cash grants of US$100 per adult and US$50 per child, to assist with reintegration.
Prior to their departure, the Angolan consulate in Botswana issued the returnees with travel documents and identity cards.
The spokesperson added that “now that cessation is in effect Angolans who fled their country during those turbulent years and remain abroad will no longer be regarded as refugees by UNHCR and host governments”.
More than 40 years of armed conflict in Angola ending in 2002 displaced over four million people internally and forced another 600,000 into exile.
Most fled to neighbouring countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, the Republic of Congo (ROC) and Botswana.
Although most Angolan refugees in the region have gone back home since 2002, more than 100,000 still remain in exile in other countries.