UNHCR: Return of displaced people in Eastern DR Congo should be voluntary
UNHCR is concerned by the sudden closing of a camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu Province. On 2 December, 2,300 people living in Kiwanja IDP camp in Rutshuru, were suddenly told to leave the camp and go home. Within a day, all had been forced to leave the site and their makeshift shelters were burnt to the ground. Many of the IDPs do not have homes to go back to and are worried that they will not be safe in their villages. In addition, many IDPs had planted crops and would like to harvest these before leaving.
While we recognize that the improved security situation in some areas of North Kivu province has led to the voluntary return of displaced people living in IDP sites around Goma, we stress that the relocation or return of IDPs should be voluntary and in compliance with international Humanitarian and Human Rights Law. Such movement should be carried out in security and dignity, respecting family unity and any special needs people may have. UNHCR calls for a clear and agreed strategy for the return of the IDPs.
The DRC ratified the African Union Convention on the protection and assistance of internally displaced persons in July 2014. Earlier this year, humanitarian actors in Goma issued guidelines with regard to the return of IDPs in North Kivu. These aim at ensuring that return movements are voluntary, take specific vulnerabilities of the people into account and that the security situation in the areas of return are conducive for a sustainable and safe return.
More than 40,000 IDPs have left the IDP camps on a voluntary basis since the end of 2013. UNHCR remains committed to continue the dialogue with the Congolese authorities and to help them find lasting solutions for displaced people. Similarly, UNHCR is committed to building the capacities of governmental institutions to better prevent and respond to internal displacement.
For those IDPs who are unwilling or unable to return to their villages of origin due to insecurity, UNHCR recommends that measures to help them should include access to livelihood opportunities in their locations of displacement. Such opportunities will reduce dependency on humanitarian aid and help provide more positive future prospects for the affected populations. Other solutions, such as local integration near the sites should also be considered.
To date, a total of 890,000 people remain displaced throughout North Kivu Province, including 212,054 IDPs living in 60 sites.
For more information on this topic, please contact:
- In Kinshasa, Celine Schmitt on mobile +243 81 700 94 84
- In Geneva, Karin de Gruijl on mobile +41 79 255 92 13