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Expelled Congolese workers need humanitarian aid, urges senior UNHCR official

Expelled Congolese workers need humanitarian aid, urges senior UNHCR official

Deputy High Commissioner Wendy Chamberlin has appealed to aid agencies to work together to assist tens of thousands Congolese diamond miners expelled from Angola, and for the two governments to respect their basic rights.
23 April 2004

LUANDA, Angola, April 23 (UNHCR) - UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Wendy Chamberlin has urged humanitarian agencies to work together to assist tens of thousands of Congolese who have been expelled from Angola where they had been working irregularly in diamond mines.

Although the Congolese were not in Angola as refugees and therefore do not come under UNHCR's mandate, the agency has called for assistance to the group on humanitarian grounds. The Deputy High Commissioner has also appealed to Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to improve their coordination to ensure that the basic rights of the Congolese nationals are respected.

The expelled workers are arriving in an area of the DRC where UNHCR has operations to assist Angolan refugees, some 42,000 of whom could return home to Angola under UNHCR's repatriation programme this year. The refugee agency has expressed concern for the security of the refugees in the area following attacks by the angry crowds of expelled Congolese. UNHCR has provided trucks to help the deportees with transportation to their home areas.

The Deputy High Commissioner encountered groups of the expelled Congolese and witnessed the tensions while visiting the refugee settlements on Tuesday during a six-day visit to the region. She expressed concern about the humanitarian situation in which the expelled Congolese find themselves. Most of those she encountered looked exhausted and had few, if any, belongings with them.

On return to the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, Chamberlin met with other UN agencies and encouraged them to work together to provide humanitarian assistance to the expelled workers.

Continuing her mission in the region, the Deputy High Commissioner travelled on to Angola, where she met with the Angolan authorities and raised the issue of the expulsions. She shared with them her experiences in the DRC and reiterated UNHCR's position that the group should be assisted on humanitarian grounds.