Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Refugees: Worrying humanitarian situation for Congolese expelled from Angola

Source: United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC)

A joint mission of MONUC / Katanga, OCHA, IOM, UNICEF, UNFPA, WHO, the provincial government and civil society visited the locality of Kamako in Western Kasai province, on the border with Angola, from 25 February to 2 March 2010, to reassess the humanitarian situation of both Congolese nationals who have been expelled from Angola and their host community, and check into alleged cases of torture and sexual abuse recorded during a previous mission.

According to estimates by the Comité d'Accueil des Expulsés (CAE, Expelled Congolese Reception Committee)*, the number of persons expelled from Angola is currently 10247. They are of Congolese nationality and had crossed in search of a better life. Most of them were hired by Congolese or Angolan businessmen to work in mines, agricultural fields or trade. Some had reportedly lived in Angola for 25 years and had even been issued permit-of-stay documents. This is why, CAE says, nearly 70% of them would try to return to Angola, just a few days after their arrival in Kamako.

As a result of the two inter-agency missions in February and March 2010, the humanitarian situation regarding protection, risks of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV / AIDS; hygiene, water, sanitation and nutrition, was declared urgent. Also, "allegations of rape, torture, as well as intimate body searches were confirmed," says Felly Ntumba, the OCHA representative who led the mission.

CAE has recorded 393 rape cases in Kamako since the beginning of this year, including 366 among the women expelled from Angola. Some victims who met the inter-agency mission suffered abuse both on the territory of Angola and in Congo. The situation has led to a rise in unwanted pregnancies and in the death rates for women and children.

For this latest mission, MONUC has taken care to include civil society representatives with a view to their participation in educating both the expulsees and host population about the dangers of illegal migration. In addition, the Congolese and Angolan governments do not officially recognize the existence of the border post of Kamako, and reportedly do not encourage opening State services and structures to accommodate those expelled. The joint mission has therefore recommended involving UN agencies and NGOs based in Angola to ensure humane treatment and better control of the expulsion process of Congolese migrants in Angola.

* The Comité d'Accueil des Expulsés (CAE) is not a State structure, but is made up of people who have volunteered to assist the deportees. It is recognized by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) and the provincial clusters.

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