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Angolan refugees reluctant to return home now

[Zambia] Angolan returnees offload their belongings at Caianda, Angola. IRIN
The number of Angolans returning home from Zambia is expected to improve
The volunatry repatriation of Angolan refugees in Zambia has made a slow start, acknowledges the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). "It could be [due to] a number of factors: many refugees have planted crops and are in the middle of the harvesting period, so are reluctant to leave now," said Josiah Ogina, IOM's head of mission in Zambia. The Geneva-based IOM, which is responsible for transporting the refugees, told IRIN that the programme was operating well below capacity, but was expected to pick up later this month. "We are also learning from the ground that the refugees are trying to test the system - some of them think that we are likely to extend it into another year," he noted. Since the resumption of the repatriation programme in the second week of May, just over 1,500 Angolans have returned home either by land or air. The IOM is expected to transport 35,000 refugees this year. "There has been no airlift this week so far, as we do not have any refugees to transport, and the aircraft is parked at Lusaka International Airport - doing nothing - at the moment," said Ogina. "In Meheba [a refugee settlement in northwestern Zambia], the numbers for the land convoy have not improved either". Ogina said the IOM had planned to airlift refugees every day. Kelvin Shimo, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said the Zambian government had intensified information campaigns to encourage repatriation. "We normally start our repatriation programme in June every year; we started early this year and farmers are in the middle of harvesting their crops." More than 200,000 Angolans sought refuge in Zambia during almost three decades of civil war between the government and the rebel movement, UNITA, which ended in 2002. In all, approximately 310,000 refugees have returned to Angola since 2002, some 175,000 of them with UNHCR assistance.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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