Friday (20 June) has been named as the first Africa Refugee Day. The day, jointly?
Friday (20 June) has been named as the first Africa Refugee Day. The day, jointly decided on by the organisation of African Unity (DAU) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has been chosen to highlight the problem of refugees in the African continent.
The refugee problem started in the last decade with the struggle for national independence in the Portuguese colonies of Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau. In the Civil Wars that followed, thousands sought refuge in neighbouring countries.
It is estimated that the number of refugees from former Portuguese Territories now stands at about half a million. In addition, there is another half a million or so people form newly-independent countries such as Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan and Ethiopia who have left their homes to seek asylum in other countries.
The refugees are scattered in various countries but most are in Senegal, Zaire, Tanzania and Zambia.
Thousands of them are expected to return to their homeland this year, following the independence agreements between the Portuguese Government and African nationalist leaders in its former colonies.
Guinea-Bissau is already independent and, so far, up to 40,000 people have returned there. As we see in this film, they are still streaming home from the province of Casamance in Senegal, where many have lived since 1960.
These refugees are being regrouped and -- as far as possible returned to the villages they came form originally. Once home, they are given a plot of Government land to cultivate food and cash crops. The UNHCR also provides them with basic equipment, seeds and medical services.
Material and technical assistance for the refugees and the countries sheltering them have, to a large extent, come from the UNHCR. Today, it spends more than 60 per cent of its regular budget in Africa. This year, approximately 4.5 million US dollars (about 2 million sterling) will be spent on the refugees who come under the mandate of the High Commissioner.
In addition, more than 11 million US dollars is still needed to repatriate those who have returned to Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique. Angola's needs are currently being evaluated.
Another 110,000 refugees are on the waiting list for repatriation to Guinea-Bissau. To help resettle them the UNHCR has set aside more than 4 million dollars (about 1.8 million sterling).
SYNOPSIS: Deserted village like this one in Guinea-Bissau used to be the homes of thousands of people who are now refugees in other countries in Africa. It is to highlight the plight of these homeless Africans that Friday has been declared the first Africa Refugee Day. The decision was made jointly by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees-UNHCR-and the Organisation of African Unity.
Many crossed the border to the Senegalese province of Casamance and settled in towns like Adeane. This year thousands are expected to return home to Guinea-Bissau, now it is independent of Portugal.
The exodus began in nineteen-sixty with the emergence of various independence movements here, in Guinea-Bissau, as well as in the other Portuguese territories of Angola and Mozambique. In the Civil Wars that followed, thousands of nationalists went into exile. It is estimated that up and down the African continent there are now about one million refugees -- half of them from former Portuguese territories. They are scattered throughout the Continent, but most are in Senegal, Zaire, Tanzania and Zambia.
Material and technical assistance for the refugees and the countries sheltering them have, to a large extent, come from the UNHCR. Today, the UN agency spends more than sixty percent of its regular budget in Africa. This year, approximately four and a half million dollars will be spent on these who come under the mandate of the High Commissioner. Another eleven million dollars is needed to repatriate and resettle the refugees who have returned to Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique.
Up to forty thousand people have already returned to Guinea-Bissau. And they are still streaming back to their villages. There, they are regrouped and, as far as possible, returned to the villages they came from originally. Once home, they are given a plot of Government land to cultivate food and cash crops. The United Nations provides them with the basic equipment, seeds and medical services.
Another hundred thousand refugees from Guinea-Bissau are on the waiting list for repatriation to their villages. Similar programmes, but in varying scale, are being undertaken in Mozambique and Angola. But as the UNHCR points out, such programmes cannot solve the refugee problem. The African states must ensure respect for human rights so that the refugees can return home freely.