Some 30,000 expelled Angolans in "dire" need of assistance

News Stories, 20 October 2009

© UNHCR/Y.Ditewig
Angolans expelled from Democratic Republic of the Congo seek help in their homeland.

LUANDA, Angola, October 20 (UNHCR) Tens of thousands of Angolans recently expelled from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are in dire need of humanitarian assistance around the town of Mbanza Congo. "Of particular concern to us is the fact that there are significant numbers of Angolan refugees among the forcibly returned," said a UNHCR spokesman.

UNHCR staff visited Mbanza Congo in northern Angola over the weekend as part of an inter-agency assessment mission to the area. According to the initial assessment, there are close to 30,000 people living in and around three overcrowded reception centres in Cuimba (11,000 people) and Mama Rosa (18,000 people), located close to the border with the DRC.

Their most pressing needs are shelter, food, medicine and sanitation facilities. The supply of clean water is insufficient and some people have been drinking from nearby rivers. In a makeshift camp near Cuimba, many families reported cases of diarrhoea and vomiting. In the same camp, most of the population is sleeping in the open air.

Some of them claimed they had been rounded up and taken to the border, despite the fact they carried documents certifying their refugee status. Others said they were forced back without having had a chance to take their identification documents or any of their belongings. Most of them were deported from the Bas Congo province in southern DRC.

These forced returns came in response to the waves of expulsions of large numbers of Congolese from Angola since December 2008. According to UN estimates, Angola forcibly returned 160,000 Congolese up to October this year. The Congolese claimed ill treatment while being expelled.

UNHCR welcomes the official agreement between the DRC and Angola to end the 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 Democratic Republic of the Congo.

At the request of the Angolan government, which has been trying to help those forcibly returned, UNHCR plans to provide assistance to the expelled civilians, many of whom are now waiting to go to their homes areas.

There are still more than 100,000 Angolan refugees in DRC.