Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Angola: The plight of 30,000 Angolan refugees expelled from DRC

Thousands of Angolans who fled the civil war remain in the DRC

Nearly 30,000 Angolans recently expelled from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), who are now seeking refuge in overcrowded camps in northern Angola, are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.

According to an inter-agency assessment over the weekend, in which the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) took part, the Angolans are sheltering in three congested reception centres in Cuimba and Mama Rosa, near Angola’s border with the DRC.

Shelter, food, medicine and sanitation facilitation are among the most pressing needs, according to UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic.

“The supply of clean water is insufficient,” he said. “Some of the expelled drink from the nearby contaminated rivers.”

Diarrhoea and vomiting have been reported among those living in camps, where many are sleeping in the open air.

“Of particular concern is the fact that there are significant numbers of Angolan refugees among the forcibly returned,” Mr. Mahecic said.

Some of those kicked out of the DRC said they had been rounded up and taken to the border in spite of carrying documents certifying their refugee status, while others reported they were forced back to Angola before they could take their identification documents or belongings.

Most of the deported Angolans had been living in the Bas Congo province in southern DRC, and the forced returns are in response to the waves of expulsions of large numbers of Congolese from Angola since December 2008, UNHCR said.

The agency said today that it welcomes the DRC-Angola agreement to end cross-border expulsions.

“However, Angolan authorities told the inter-agency mission that they expected further, large-scale returns of Angolans who feel they can no longer remain in the DRC,” Mr. Mahecic noted, adding that at the Angolan Government’s request, UNHCR plans to help those expelled.

Last week, UN humanitarian officials voiced their concerns over the health and living conditions of the Angolans living in the DRC, noting that the concentration of between 20,000 and 40,000 people in such a small area poses health and sanitation problems.

Angola expelled about 2,000 people to the DRC in the first half of the year but the process has accelerated since then, with about 17,000 further expulsions in the past three months, and authorities in the DRC responding with their own expulsions.

Source: UN

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