Lusaka - Zambia has relocated more than 1 500 refugees from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo after the closure of a camp, the United Nations refugee agency said on Wednesday.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees closed the Kala camp on Tuesday, in the north of Zambia, and was next month expected to close the nearby Mwange camp.
“A total of 1 555 Congolese refuges have been relocated from Mwange and Kala to Maheba in the north-western province,” UNHCR programme officer Robert Taban said in a statement.
This is the final year of a voluntary repatriation programme launched in 2007 to encourage Congolese refugees in Zambia to return to the DRC. So far 40 000 of them have heeded the call according to the UNHCR as plans to close the camps gained steam.
Both Zambia and the UNHCR agreed to close the camps.
Taban said the relocated refugees would receive food rations for one year, and fend for themselves thereafter.
Most of the refugees fled during the war that erupted in DRC in 1998, sucking in six other countries with an array of rebel groups. An estimated 5.4 million people died in the conflict and the resulting humanitarian crisis.
Millions were displaced from their homes, with many seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.
Zambia, one of the poorest countries in the world, has little to offer the refugees as an incentive to move.
Maheba hosts 15 942 refugees of different nationalities, with the majority being from Angola followed by those from DR Congo.