Zambia agrees to take in Angolan refugees

Lusaka – The United Nations refugee agency in Zambia has welcomed Zambia’s willingness to harbour Angolan refugees who want to remain in the country. United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Joyce Mends Cole, said her organisation was elated by Zambian President Rupiah Banda’s willingness to absorb some of the Angolans, currently seeking asylum, to remain in the country after the closure of their camps and settlements towards the end of the year or early next year, given their strong ties to the country, she said in a statement. According to media reports in Angola, President Banda had expressed Zambia’s willingness to consider integrating some of the Angolan asylum seekers in the Zambian community in the aftermath of the voluntary integration because of the period their have lived in the country, some spanning more than three decades. Banda stated that the Angolan refugees in Zambia who want to live in that neighbouring country, can do it without any problem. According to Angola’s main news agency Angola Press (Angop) the statement was assured under the Angolan government decision of signing a document in 2011 for ending the refugee’s statute for Angolans living abroad, once that there has been a climate of peace since eight years ago in Angola. The Zambian president made  this offer at the international airport 4 de Fevereiro (Luanda), on his way to Brazil, for a three-day working visit. “Refugees issues is a very difficult matter to resolve, because of involving personal aspects, once that there are Angolans who made family in Zambia, theirchildren are studying there, reason why the government must be careful on looking at this subject. If some one wants to come back may do it, who wants to stay there may stay as well”, said the president. Zambia hosts over 250,000 Angolans living there as refugees, many of them said they want to get back to Angola, while others want to remain there. However, the Zambian UNHCR-body said some of the Angolan refugees have strong family and country ties to Zambia, considering the time they have lived in the country following civil war in the oil-rich Angola.  “Many Angolans have been refugees in Zambia for over twenty years and some for thirty or more, the statement said.  “Some were born here and grew up here, knowing no other home. They “feel” Zambian and would like to continue to contribute to the development of the country”. Mends Cole said. The refugee agency is optimistic that not all Angolans wish to remain in Zambia, hence the numbers would not be overwhelming.  A recent survey of Mayukwayukwa refugee settlement, opened in 1966,showed that 52 percent of  the Angolan population wishes to return, 46 percent seek  to remain while a small minority are still undecided. According to data, with Zambia’s 1964 independence from the British Empire, many members of national liberation movements in neighbouring countries, including Angola, found the country a hospitable base for their operations.  However, eastern Angola was less densely-populated than the northern region adjacent to Democratic Republic of the Congo); DR Congo and not Zambia thus because the primary destination for Angolan refugees in those days. Most of these refugees were of Balovale ethnicity, an ethnic group also present in Zambia. The Zambian government aimed to move them away from the border; they were settled first at Zambezi in Northwestern Province and in Mayukwayukwa in Western Province.

November 2010
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