UN Refugee Agency Aids Angolans from Congo
New York, Nov 3 2009 10:10AM
The United Nations refugee agency has rushed relief items to help tens of thousands of Angolans expelled from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) last month.
A Boeing 747 jet from Johannesburg, South Africa, touched down in Angola’s capital, Luanda, over the weekend carrying thousands of tents, sleeping mats and blankets, as well as a prefabricated warehouse.
Upon arrival, the supplies – sent in response to a request from the Angolan Government – were loaded onto army aircraft bound for Uige and Zaire provinces bordering the DRC.
Angolan authorities have said that 50,000 Angolans – most of whom had refugee status in the DRC – have either been expelled or have come back to their home country of their own accord.
“Many were not even given any opportunity to collect their personal belongings before being forced back to Angola,” (http://www.unhcr.org/4af01ab09.html) said Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home).
Those who have returned are living in extremely difficult conditions, he said, with the agency having found some 500 people sleeping on a cement floor in an old school building without sleeping mats or mattresses in Kitumu in Uige province.
“The returnees’ stress is exacerbated because many became separated before being forced back to Angola,” Mr. Mahecic noted.
When it visited the Mbaza Congo area of Zaire province three weeks ago, UNHCR found that also some 30,000 forcibly returned Angolans are in need of shelter, water, medicine and food.
Before the expulsions, the agency was already helping to pave the way for the return of those Angolans wishing to go back to their home country.
“UNCHR now looks forward to working with the Angolan and DRC governments to arrange a safe and dignified repatriation of Angolan refugees to their homeland,” according to Mr. Mahecic.
As of the end of September, there were still 111,000 refugees registered in the DRC and a further 40,000 in Zambia, South Africa, the Republic of Congo and Namibia.