Repatriation of Congolese from Zambia reaches 40,000; camps to close

News Stories, 24 September 2010

© UNHCR/K.Barnes
Congolese refugees in the back of a truck after returning to Katanga province from Zambia.

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, September 24 (UNHCR) The number of Congolese refugees repatriated from neighbouring Zambia by UNHCR since 2007 has topped the 40,000 mark.

The milestone was passed last Sunday when a UNHCR-chartered boat carrying 555 people arrived at Moba in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Katanga province after crossing LakeTanganyika from the north Zambian port of Mpulungu. On Wednesday, a further 527 refugees arrived in Moba from Zambia.

The refugees had been living in the Mwange and Kala refugee camps after fleeing their homeland to escape conflict. They now feel the security situation has improved enough for them to go home.

UNHCR plans to close Mwange camp on Tuesday and Kala camp next month, before the voluntary repatriation programme is wrapped up at the end of this year. Some 7,200 refugees were repatriated in 2007, when the programme began, and about 6,200 so far this year. A peak in returns was reached in 2009, when UNHCR helped almost 17,000 go back to the DRC by boat or vehicle.

"The plan for 2010 is to repatriate 7,000. So we are way on target. The willingness of Congolese refugees at Kala and Mwange to repatriate is very high," Phillipe Creppy, head of UNHCR's sub-office in the Zambian town of Kawambwa, told journalists on Thursday. He said the milestone had been reached thanks to support from the two governments and donors.

Refugees who do not want to go home are being moved from Mwange to the Meheba Refugee Settlement in Zambia's North-Western Province.

Although other parts of the DRC remain volatile, especially the Kivu provinces to the north, Katanga has been relatively peaceful since the country's warring rivals signed a peace accord in 2003. Those arriving recently in Moba from Zambia have said they feel more confident about the situation in their vast province.

"Even if I do not have a job in DRC, I have to go back home with my family. I have to go back because I am Congolese," Kibingwa Malinga, a 45-year-old doctor, told UNHCR after stepping off the boat that recently brought him and his family to Moba. Doctors will certainly be needed in Katanga's recovery.

On arrival at Moba, the boats carrying refugees home from Zambia are always greeted by a loud and cheerful crowd of happy relatives, government officials and aid workers, including UNHCR staff.

Some 20,000 Congolese refugees are still being hosted in Zambia, but most have expressed the wish to go home. Many have learned skills in Zambia's camps, including agriculture, fishing or carpentry. These will help them build a new life back home.

Indeed, some of the returnees are thriving in Katanga. Kasenge wa Kasenge, for example, came back from Zambia at the end of 2009 and opened a transportation company in Moba. He now owns three trucks and runs a general store. When he fled to Zambia, he had only US$250 in his pocket.

In Katanga, UNHCR and its partners also provide skills training for the returnees and support income-generation projects and micro-credit schemes. Returnees receive food and shelter assistance to get started and are offered transportation back to their home areas.

By Celine Schmitt in Moba, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kelvin Shimo in Kasama, Zambia





UNHCR works with the country of origin and host countries to help refugees return home.

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

As a massive food distribution gets underway in six UNHCR-run camps for tens of thousands of internally displaced Congolese in North Kivu, the UN refugee agency continues to hand out desperately needed shelter and household items.

A four-truck UNHCR convoy carrying 33 tonnes of various aid items, including plastic sheeting, blankets, kitchen sets and jerry cans crossed Wednesday from Rwanda into Goma, the capital of the conflict-hit province in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The aid, from regional emergency stockpiles in Tanzania, was scheduled for immediate distribution. The supplies arrived in Goma as the World Food Programme (WFP), with assistance from UNHCR, began distributing food to some 135,000 displaced people in the six camps run by the refugee agency near Goma.

More than 250,000 people have been displaced since the fighting resumed in August in North Kivu. Estimates are that there are now more than 1.3 million displaced people in this province alone.

Posted on 6 November 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

Since 2006, renewed conflict and general insecurity in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province has forced some 400,000 people to flee their homes – the country's worst displacement crisis since the formal end of the civil war in 2003. In total, there are now some 800,000 people displaced in the province, including those uprooted by previous conflicts.

Hope for the future was raised in January 2008 when the DRC government and rival armed factions signed a peace accord. But the situation remains tense in North Kivu and tens of thousands of people still need help. UNHCR has opened sites for internally displaced people (IDPs) and distributed assistance such as blankets, plastic sheets, soap, jerry cans, firewood and other items to the four camps in the region. Relief items have also been delivered to some of the makeshift sites that have sprung up.

UNHCR staff have been engaged in protection monitoring to identify human rights abuses and other problems faced by IDPs and other populations at risk across North Kivu.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Posted on 28 May 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

Displaced in North Kivu: A Life on the Run

Fighting rages on in various parts of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with seemingly no end in sight for hundreds of thousands of Congolese forced to flee violence and instability over the past two years. The ebb and flow of conflict has left many people constantly on the move, while many families have been separated. At least 1 million people are displaced in North Kivu, the hardest hit province. After years of conflict, more than 1,000 people still die every day - mostly of hunger and treatable diseases. In some areas, two out of three women have been raped. Abductions persist and children are forcefully recruited to fight. Outbreaks of cholera and other diseases have increased as the situation deteriorates and humanitarian agencies struggle to respond to the needs of the displaced.

When the displacement crisis worsened in North Kivu in 2007, the UN refugee agency sent emergency teams to the area and set up operations in several camps for internally displaced people (IDPs). Assistance efforts have also included registering displaced people and distributing non-food aid. UNHCR carries out protection monitoring to identify human rights abuses and other problems faced by IDPs in North and South Kivu.

Displaced in North Kivu: A Life on the Run

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