UN urges refugees to return home
Lusaka – United Nations officials visiting a refugee camp in northern Zambia on Wednesday issued a call for refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to return home.
This is the final year of a voluntary repatriation programme launched in 2007 to encourage Congolese refugees in Zambia to return to the DRC.
Zambia currently hosts more than 21 000 refugees who fled violence in neighbouring DRC including a 1998-2003 war.
"This visit signals the importance the (Zambian) government and donor countries assign to finding durable solutions for refugees, in this case voluntary repatriation to DRC," said James Lynch, Zambia representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
"We want you to consider returning to your home country. There is peace in Congo and you are now safe to return," Lynch said during the visit by senior diplomats including government and UN officials to the Mwange refugee camp, about 1 100km north of the capital, Lusaka.
Since the start of the voluntary repatriation programme, more than 33 000 Congolese refugees have returned home from Zambia.
Officials expect 7 632 refugees to be repatriated before the programme ends.
The UN's refugee agency plans to close its two camps in northern Zambia, Mwange and Kala, at the end of the year.
Zambia is host to some 56 000 refugees, including those who fled war and civil unrest in Angola, Rwanda, the DRC and Somalia.