LUANDA (Reuters) - Angola's government approved a new amnesty law to send home thousands of inmates convicted with prison sentences of up to 12 years as it scrambles to free up overloaded jails and penitentiaries.

The new law passed on Wednesday grants amnesty only to common crimes of prisoners who have completed half of the sentence and will cover national and foreign citizens in Angola.

"The amnesty for all offences punishable by imprisonment of up to 12 years...results from the feeling of providing social opportunities, policies and other rehabilitation staff and family," said Virgilio de Fontes Pereira, president of Parliamentary Group of the ruling party, MPLA.

(Reporting by Herculano Coroado, Writing by Nqobile Dludla, Editing by Angus MacSwan)