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Angola: Thousands of expelled Angolans in need of assistance

Briefing notes

Angola: Thousands of expelled Angolans in need of assistance

20 October 2009

Tens of thousands of Angolans recently expelled from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are in dire need of humanitarian assistance in various sites around the town of Mbanza Congo in northern Angola. UNHCR visited Mbanza Congo over the weekend, as part of an inter-agency assessment mission to the area bordering the DRC, where the expelled are staying.

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 (some 18,000 people) respectively at 30 and 8 kilometres from the DRC border. Their most pressing needs are shelter, food, medicine and sanitation facilities. The supply of clean water is insufficient. Some of the expelled drink from the nearby contaminated rivers. Among the interviewed over the weekend in one of the makeshift camps at Lendi near Cuimba which hosts around 5,800 Angolans, many families reported cases of diarrhea and vomiting. In the same camp, most of the population is sleeping in the open air.

Of particular concern to us is the fact that there are significant numbers of Angolan refugees among the forcibly returned. Some of them say 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.

UNHCR welcomes the official agreement between the DRC and Angola to end to 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 DRC.

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