Friday, September 17, 2010

Homeward Bound!

Eight years after the end of the civil war, Angolans are coming home. By the time the peace accord which brought hostilities to a close was signed in 2002, an estimated 600,000 had crossed Angola’s borders to neighbouring countries as refugees.

Now about 70,000 remain in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with 25,000 in Zambia and smaller groups in Namibia and the Republic of Congo. These remaining Angolans who fled decades of fighting in their country will be urged to return home next year, the UN refugee agency said Tuesday. "There are no more well founded grounds for fearing persecution. The war has stopped.... It is safe to return home," said Bohdan Nahajlo, the agency's representative in Angola. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees will stop supporting the camps after next year. Each host country can decide whether to accept the refugees as immigrants.

At the end of 2011, Angolans living in refugee camps in neighbouring countries will no longer be considered officially as refugees, meaning they will either have to return home or seek a visa to stay where they are, he said. "Refugee status is not a privilege. It is something that happens because of a desperate situation where people need additional protection," he said.  "But it cannot turn into a never ending, an open-ended situation, which may appear privileged in the eyes of the community living around the refugee settlements."

Returning to their homeland will be a pleasure spiced by the cruel events of the recent past. Many in their exiles countries will have attended courses on landmines and will have been given HIV-Aids awareness instruction. And after the excitement of renewing ties of kinship, the real struggle begins. Refugee families receive government-funded basic equipment: farming implements and seeds to grow crops; plastic sheeting, kitchen equipment, blankets and enough food for six months to nurture family life. (Reliefweb, June 22, 2010)

No comments: