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DRC: Camp closes following Central African return

Briefing notes

DRC: Camp closes following Central African return

17 June 2003

UNHCR has closed Mole refugee camp in north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo's Equateur Province, following the completion of the repatriation of some 2,700 Central African refugees. The last group of refugees left Mole yesterday (16 June) for the 10-minute boat trip across the Oubangui River to Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR).

The return had only started 8 days ago and was completed in a record 7-day period. Although we had planned to repatriate a maximum of 350 refugees per day, on some days last week more than 500 refugees showed up for transportation home. Daily truck convoys transported the refugees from Mole to Zongo, on the shores of the Oubangui river, 34 km away. From here, the refugees were ferried to Bangui aboard two boats carrying 100 passengers each. Several rotations were made to bring all the refugees across to Bangui. In Bangui, they boarded trucks which took them to drop-off points close to their homes.

Many of the returnees are former civil servants and residents of Bangui. They had fled following a failed coup in the Central African Republic in May 2001. The recent change of government in CAR in March this year and a subsequent amnesty for those linked with the 2001 coup encouraged the refugees to go back.

In collaboration with our local NGO partners, we are now working to rehabilitate the environment in and around the camp that had hosted refugees for more than two years. The former campsite is being cleaned up, pit latrines are being closed and more trees are being planted. School and health facilities left in the camp will be handed over to the local population.