WINDHOEK, Namibia (AP) _ About 300 people crossed into Namibia from Angola Friday to start a U.N. repatriation program to return thousands of Namibian refugees to their homeland.

The main program to return about 41,000 Namibians from Angola, Zambia and Botswana is to begin Monday morning with United Nations charter flights carrying the refugees, a U.N. official said Friday.

A spokesman for the South African-appointed administrator of Namibia said the group of 300 walked across the border before the U.N. plan was in effect, and they were fed by local tribal authorities.

Spokesman Eberhard Hoffman said their status would be checked before police turned them over to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Nicolas Bwakira of Nigeria, who is in charge of the U.N. operation, said 11 charter flights will deliver 1,374 refugees to three sites in Namibia on Monday.

The refugee airlift is part of the U.N. independence plan for Namibia, also known as South-West Africa, that went into effect April 1. South Africa, which has ruled Namibia for 74 years, is responsible for implementing most of the plan under U.N. supervision.

Bwakira said between 1,000 and 1,400 refugees will be returning daily on flights that will continue into late July.

He said U.N. representatives have registered 41,000 refugees but Namibians who return on their own will not be turned back.

Refugees returning Monday will be flown to camps at the northern towns of Ondangwa and Grootfontein and the territorial capital Windhoek.

Bwakira said refugees are expected to leave the camps within seven days and rejoin relatives.

Thousands of Namibians fled to escape the 23-year-old war between South African-led security forces and guerrillas of the South-West Africa People's Organization.

The repatriation program had been scheduled to start in May but it was delayed by fighting between security units and SWAPO forces.

Pre-independence elections are scheduled for November, and SWAPO is favored to win the most votes.