Angolan refugees return home

Pretoria: The second group of Angolan refugees, who voluntarily opted to go back home following the cessation of refugee status for Angolans, left South Africa this morning.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Home Affairs officials and Angolan government officials saw them off today.

Home Affairs Deputy Minister Fatima Chohan on Thursday said about 60% of the 6 900 Angolan refugees who were in the country have approached the department to regularise their asylum status.

Chohan said 56% applied to resume their Angolan citizenship, while a smaller unspecified number have asked for their refugee status to be protected.

Many Angolan nationals took refuge in South Africa and other countries when a civil war broke after Angola gained its independence from Portugal in 1975.

After the war ended in 2002, the UNHCR announced to its member states in 2009 that following the end of Angola’s civil war, and with that country’s economy showing signs of growth with hints of political stability, that the refugee status of Angolans be withdrawn.

Of the 6 900 refugees that are on the Home Affairs system, 1 700 of them are dependents. Chohan said while they may be dependents of refugees who were born in South Africa and may feel that their entire lives are in this country, the law stipulated that children of refugees will, in that event, take up their parents’ refugee status.