Afghanistan + 4 more

IOM Press Briefing Notes: 07 Mar 2000

News and Press Release
Originally published
by Jean-Philippe Chauzy, IOM Spokesperson
Zambia: Relocation of Angolan refugees

In the past six days, IOM has transported some 1,200 of the 10,000 Angolan refugees currently at the Zambian border (IOM officers estimate there are some 7,200 persons at Sinjembela and an additional 2,500 gathered in an area some 10 kilometres away). As we reported last Friday, this operation, begun on 1 March, will transport the refugees on the 126-kilometre trip from Sinjembela to Nangweshi. IOM expects to transport some 1,500 people per week, which should take 5 to 6 weeks to transport all of the refugees.

At the moment bad road conditions and mechanical problems with the trucks locally available are slowing down the operation. Also IOM staff in the field reported that water levels have gone up over the past days. To pick up the pace, IOM has identified additional trucks and will provide drivers with spare parts and a tank of fuel upon arrival at Nangweshi. This will avoid further delay as the drivers are obliged to travel an additional 45 kilometres to refuel before heading back to Sinjembela to pick up the next group of refugees.

As there is a need for food in Sinjembela, IOM trucks today began transporting 40 tons of WFP/CARE food to feed those waiting for transport. An IOM doctor and two nurses are providing medical screening and assistance in Sinjembela. IOM staff has reported some cases of malnutrition.

The Zambian Government estimates that more than 21,000 Angolan refugees have arrived in Zambia since November 1999 due to an upsurge in fighting between Angolan government forces and UNITA. Zambia hosts more than 200,000 refugees, the majority of whom are Angolans. Many of the new arrivals are currently scattered along approximately 90 Km, just across the border, in the Sinjembela region.

Mozambique emergency

IOM staff in Maputo met with the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator to discuss IOM participation in the registration of the 500,000 Mozambicans believed to have been displaced by the floods. The role of IOM in the return and/or resettlement of the displaced was also discussed.

IOM's expertise can provide immediate set-up and management of a registration database. The UN Coordinator has expressed that this is an immediate priority given that the humanitarian agencies on the ground have been busy with search and rescue and now with emergency care and therefore have not had time to set-up a registration system.

At the end of the emergency phase and as the stabilization phase gets underway, IOM will play an important role in the return and/or resettlement of the displaced.

Female medical professionals expected to return to Afghanistan

Return of Qualified Nationals - As part of IOM's global strategy of returning qualified professionals to their countries of origin, thus contributing to reversing the brain drain, IOM has developed a project within the health and education sectors, funded by the Swedish International Development Agency.

On the occasion of International Women's Day, to be observed Wednesday 8 March, IOM will launch a project for the Return and Reintegration of Qualified Afghan Nationals in the Health and Education Sectors. It is expected that some 20% of the 100 returnees will be female medical professionals.

IOM will facilitate the return and find jobs in the health and education sectors for Afghans currently residing in Pakistan. The beneficiaries will be those who have expressed their desire to return, but who have not done so because of the lack of guaranteed employment in their professional field. To bridge this gap, IOM will locate and refer potential candidates for employment to interested NGOs and agencies through its database system and Employment Referral Unit. Basic relocation assistance and supplementary training grants will be awarded to 100 qualified Afghans in the health and education sectors -- 50 in each sector -- at least 20 % of these will be awarded to females. The overall objective is to contribute to increase the access to health care and education in remote areas of Afghanistan.

To date, IOM has assisted 10 Afghan doctors -- nine women -- to return to their country to work in health clinics in semi-remote and remote areas, and another 10 are in the process of returning. These doctors returned under a pilot project that has provided return assistance and training to 25 Afghan medical professionals. IOM has been working with two international NGOs on this project.


On Monday 6 March the UN Peace Keeping Force (PKF) raised the security rating of the entire border area to high, following a series of shooting incidents and incursions into East Timor by armed militia groups. IOM convoys will now only move in daylight hours in border locations. On the same day, IOM transported 389 people from the Atambua camps to Batugade.

The Saturday family reunion at Motaain finally went ahead, but with considerably reduced numbers. Some 2000 people attended from East Timor and only 260 from West Timor. The late decision to go ahead with the event, bad weather and fear of trouble following the disturbances of two weeks ago contributed to the low turnout.

Over the last four days, IOM has helped a total of 778 displaced East Timorese to return home from West Timor. Tuesday 7 March, an IOM land convoy repatriated 35 people from the West Timor city of Atambua to the border town of Batugade. Another 83 returnees arrived in Dili aboard a flight from the South Kalimantan city of Banjarmasin. Secondary movements from Dili included 133 people to Aileu, 92 people to Maubisse, 50 people to Viqueque and 10 to Manututo. Secondary movements from Dili included 79 people to Los Palos, 3 to Manututo and 8 to Manufahi. On Saturday 4 March, 271 people arrived in Dili aboard the IOM-operated ship the Patricia Anne Hotung.

IOM Awards

Friday, 10 March, IOM's Director General, Brunson McKinley will present the IOM-DG Awards to 12 IOM staff members singled-out for their outstanding work on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of men, women and children who received IOM assistance during the course of 1999. The ceremony will be held at 3:00PM at the IOM building, 17 route des Morillons, 5th Floor.
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