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Angolan refugees to be sent home


About 100,000 Angolan refugees will be urged to return home next year, the United Nations refugee agency said Tuesday. At the end of 2011, Angolans living in neighbouring countries will no longer be officially considered as refugees, meaning they will either have to seek a visa or go home.


"There are no more well founded grounds for fearing persecution,” said Bohdan Nahajlo, the agency's representative in Angola. “The war has stopped. It is safe to return home."

He said refugee status should not turn into an open-ended situation, “which may appear privileged in the eyes of the community living around the refugee settlements".

During the 27-year civil war, which ended in 2002, 600,000 Angolans fled their country, according to official figures.

There are about 70,000 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 25,000 in Zambia and smaller groups in Namibia and the Republic of Congo.

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, but Nahajlo said the UN advocates repatriation.

Angola will need to provide documentation to the returning refugees so they can restart their lives. During previous repatriation programmes, Angola offered several months of food, tools and other supplies to help the refugees return.

Since the end of the war, Angola's oil wealth has made the economy one of the fastest growing in the world, but two thirds of the population remain in extreme poverty.

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