Repatriations to DRC resume from Tanzania using new landing stage
KIGOMA, Tanzania, November 24 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency has resumed its voluntary repatriation programme for Congolese refugees in Tanzania, using a new landing stage for returnees embarking on a UNHCR-hired ferry at this port on Lake Tanganyika.
The Mwongozo ferry, carrying 413 Congolese refugees and their belongings, docked Friday at Baraka in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC) South Kivu province a day after leaving Kigoma.
UNHCR's repatriation programme for the DRC was suspended ahead of the October 29 second round of the country's landmark presidential election, which was won by Joseph Kabila. The ferry service from Kigoma to South Kivu province was due to restart in early November, but heavy rains and landslides caused a delay.
The UNHCR was able to use a new landing stage at Kigoma for the first time to board the returnees. The facility allows easy access to vessels, even when the water levels are low. It will also permit UNHCR to make more frequent journeys across the lake.
The landing stage was funded by UNHCR and replaces pontoons loaned to the refugee agency last year by the Belgian army.
With the latest ferry crossing, more than 21,000 Congolese refugees have returned to South Kivu from Tanzania since the start of the repatriation programme in October 2005. In total, 75,000 Congolese refugees have returned to DRC from neighbouring countries.
More than 420,000 Congolese refugees still live in surrounding countries, including 130,000 in Tanzania.
By Marjolijn M. Luchtmeijer in Kigoma, Tanzania