STORY: Congolese Refugees Repatriation from Angola - UNHCR
SOURCE: UNTV CH
ASPECT RATIO: 16:9
DATELINE: 19 July 2022, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
Voluntary Repatriation of Refugees to DR Congo Resumes
After a two-year hiatus, the voluntary repatriation of refugees from Angola to their home Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has started again. It had been on hold since 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic led to the closure of the border between the two countries.
"The first convoy of 88 Congolese refugees departed from the Lôvua settlement in northern Angola this morning towards the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The convoy is expected to arrive in the DRC tomorrow,” announced Boris Cheshirkov, the spokesperson for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), at a media briefing this morning in Geneva.
The Lôvua camp in Angola hosts some 7,000 refugees. Many have not seen their family since fleeing political and ethnic violence in the DRC’s Kasai region in 2017. More than 35,000 people crossed the border to find safety in Angola at the time.
Despite the endemic insecurity and intensification of the armed conflict in eastern DRC, which has caused 5.9 million people to become internally displaced, Mr. Cheshirkov was reassuring regarding the situation in other parts of the country: “Although conflict continues in eastern DRC, improvements in security in the west have re-opened the possibility for Congolese to return to their country in dignity and safety”.
Upon arrival in the DRC, repatriated Congolese refugees receive cash assistance to help cover basic needs such as personal hygiene, household items and initial assistance for rent. Additional support is also provided to help integrate the resttled populations: for example, for getting documentation and helping children go back to school. At the same time, “UNHCR will always continue to advocate for the full support in essential services to be provided by the government, by the authorities, to those going back, especially when it comes to insecurity, so they are able to rebuild their lives”, insisted the UN Refugee Agency’s spokesperson.
Only two per cent of the world’s refugees were able to return home last year
Already, over 600 Congolese refugees have expressed willingness to go back home. More are likely to show interest with the resumption of the repatriation efforts.
UNHCR assists some 57,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Angola, mostly in urban areas. “This year, the operation has received US$10.3 million of the US$29.8 million it needs, leaving a significant gap in addressing the basic needs of the refugees and asylum seekers. And UNHCR in DRC has received just 19 per cent of the US$225 million required to respond to the growing needs of displaced people in the DRC.”
Globally, last year, nearly 430,000 people were able to return home in safety and dignity, a 71 per cent increase on the previous year. Nearly two-thirds of refugee returns were to South Sudan. That number represents just two per cent of the world’s refugees.