The United Nations refugee agency says thousands of Angolans recently
expelled from the Democratic Republic of Congo are in dire need of
humanitarian assistance. The UNHCR says the Angolans are living in
sites around the town of Mbanza Congo in northern Angola.
A UNHCR assessment team visited Mbanza Congo in northern Angola over the weekend. It says close to 30,000 people are living in and around three overcrowded reception centers near the Congolese border.
U.N. refugee agency spokesman, Andrej Mahecic, says initial assessments find people are in critical need of shelter, food, medicine and sanitation facilities.
He says the supply of clean water is insufficient and some of the Angolans are drinking from nearby contaminated rivers. As a consequence, he says many of the expelled families are reporting cases of diarrhea and vomiting.
"There are significant numbers of Angolan refugees among the forcibly returned. And, this is for us the most worrying aspect of this situation. 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," Mahecic said.
He says these forced returns are in response to the expulsion of large numbers of Congolese from Angola since December 2008. He says an official agreement between the DRC and Angola may finally end these tit-for-tat expulsions.
But, this does not mean that the exodus will end in the near term. Mahecic says Angolan authorities expect further large scale returns of their nationals who no longer feel welcome in the DRC.
At the request of the Angolan government, he says the UNHCR will provide assistance to those who have been expelled and are waiting to go home.