UNHCR Briefing Notes: FYR of Macedonia, Congo/Angola, Angola/DR Congo, Pakistan/Afghans
1. Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
A week after a peace agreement was signed in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, small groups of ethnic Macedonians continue to flee the troubled town of Tetovo, where intermittent mortar exchanges have been reported since the weekend.
Displaced ethnic Macedonians at a collective centre in Kumanovo said they were willing to return to their homes if their security could be guaranteed. They told UNHCR they were worried about reports that ethnic Albanian rebels were looting and burning Macedonian and Serb homes in the villages they left behind. The displaced Macedonians were also concerned about the education of their children, with schools opening in two weeks.
In the Macedonian capital, Skopje, several hundred displaced barricaded a road leading to the border crossing at Blace, preventing returns of refugees from Kosovo. More than 27,000 refugees have gone back, but over the past three days there have been no returns from Blace.
Meanwhile, life is increasingly returning to normal at Aracinovo, a largely Albanian village just outside Skopje, where up to 8,000 residents have returned since they fled heavy fighting in June. Many houses have been repaired with UNHCR plastic sheeting, children were out playing in the streets and some shops have reopened. However, only several Macedonians have gone back to Aracinovo. They told UNHCR that resumption of electrical service could encourage more returns to the area. UNHCR has been sending mobile teams to Aracinovo in an attempt to boost confidence. UNHCR has stressed the need to address the security concerns of the displaced, particularly the Macedonians who fled areas where they were in a minority. Creating conditions for their safe return is critical in the successful implementation of the peace agreement.
2. Republic of Congo/Angola
A repatriation convoy carrying over 600 Angolan refugees was this morning scheduled to leave the Republic of Congo port town of Pointe Noire for the enclave of Cabinda, an oil-rich piece of Angolan territory separated from the rest of the country by a strip of Congolese territory. This is the second return convoy to Cabinda in ten days.
The majority of those returning home in today's convoy have been living in Pointe Noire for the last eight years. Nearly 100 refugees were last night expected to arrive in the port city from refugee camps, some 120 kms away, to join the convoy scheduled to take the returnees to a transit centre in Cacongo, some 46 kms north of Cabinda town. UNHCR had hired 20 minibuses and several trucks to ferry the refugees to Cabinda, some 120 kms away. Because of poor road conditions inside Angola, the journey will likely take three hours.
In addition to a reintegration package from UNHCR, the government of Angola has allocated half a hectare of arable land for each returnee family, and will also distribute construction materials to enable each family to put up a house. There are still more than 12,000 Angolan refugees from Cabinda in Pointe Noire alone, and probably over 30,000 in the Bas-Congo Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
3. Angola/Congo (DRC)
UNHCR is preparing to move away from the border 10,000 Angolan refugees who recently arrived in DRC's Bas-Congo Province in the south-west. The refugees will be taken to villages some 50 kms away from DRC's border with Angola. The refugees fled an August 3 UNITA offensive in northern Angola. Nearly 2,000 of them are now at a DRC town called Kimvula, while more than 8,000 are in an area known as Kitompolo, 4 kms from the border. UNHCR has deployed emergency teams to the border to help with registration, the distribution of basic supplies and to make arrangements for the transfer of the refugees away from border areas.
The joint teams composed of UNHCR and Pakistani government officials are interviewing increasing numbers of Afghans in Nasir Bagh and Jalozai settlements in advance of the screening for refugee status slated to begin the middle of next week.
To date, more than 13,800 heads of families have undergone initial interviews at the two sites near Peshawar, in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province. The pre-screening operation began on 6 August.
UNHCR staff expect to complete the initial interviews of the some 130,000 Afghans in Nasir Bagh and Jalozai sites by the end of this week. The 55 teams will begin the actual screening interviews a week from tomorrow (next Wednesday).
On Monday, the largest single convoy of Afghans returning from settlements in Pakistan since the organized movements resumed on 3 July crossed back into Afghanistan. Forty-two trucks carrying 747 persons (162 families) from Nasir Bagh refugee settlement passed through the Khyber pass and then into Afghanistan last evening. Each family will receive Rup. 6,000 ($91), a plastic tarpaulin and 150 kgs of grain from the UN World Food Programme.
Of the more than 13,800 families undergoing the pre-screening so far, more than 3,150 families have said they would like to return home to Afghanistan. Yesterday, elders at the Nasir Bagh settlement decided to lead several blocks comprising 1,300 families back home to Afghanistan, and they should be repatriating in the coming weeks. UNHCR is looking at strengthening the number of staff involved in overseeing the voluntary repatriation operation, which since 3 July has seen nearly 12,000 Afghans repatriate from Pakistan.
This document is intended for public information purposes only. It is not an official UN document.