JOHANNESBURG, 12 July (IRIN) - Some 500 Angolan refugees living in Botswana are expected to return home this week as a new phase of a voluntary repatriation exercise gets underway.
Sixty-two Angolans were repatriated in December last year under a tripartite agreement between the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the governments of Botswana and Angola, but that leg of the exercise was temporarily suspended after heavy rains in Angola.
About 120 refugees will be airlifted from the northern city of Francistown in Botswana to the central Angolan town of Huambo by Friday. The remaining batch of approximately 370, mainly from Dukwe camp in the northeast of Botswana, will travel home by road through the Kasane border post.
UN officials said that after three years of sustained political stability in Angola, refugees should be confident that they were returning to a country at peace with itself.
More than 100,00 Angolan refugees have gone home since the end of the 27-year civil war in 2002. To assist resettlement, UNHCR and other agencies initially provide returnees with a two-month pack of food rations and supplements to tide them over until their first harvest.
The refugees are also given vocational training and crop-farming skills to enable them to become economically productive and reach a basic level of subsistence as soon as possible.
However, UNHCR has warned that concerns over widespread landmines remained and could jeopardise the resettlement process.
Scores of Angolans are still being maimed or killed by landmines amid fears that the demining process was being bogged down by a lack of funds and human resources.
Until recently the majority of refugees at Dukwe were Angolan. The camp is still home to about 3,000 refugees from various African countries, including Zimbabwe, Somalia, Eritrea and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
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