The United Nations Refugee Agency has restarted the voluntary repatriation of Congolese refugees from Angola, after departures were halted in 2020 due to Covid-19.
The first convoy of 88 Congolese refugees departed from the Lôvua settlement in northern Angola yesterday morning [19 July] towards the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The convoy is expected to arrive in the DRC later on today [20 July].
Refugees travelled in IOM trucks towards the border of Chicolondo, where they will stay in a transit centre for the night before crossing the border. The refugees will head to various destinations in western DRC, including Kasai, Kasai Central, Kwilu, Sankuru, Lomami, Lualaba and Kinshasa, the capital.
Upon arrival, the Congolese will receive cash assistance to help cover basic needs such as personal hygiene, household items and initial assistance for rent. Additional support will also be provided for integration, such as helping children enrol in school.
“UNHCR will keep advocating for and supporting essential aspects of reintegration into Congolese life like continued security, livelihood support, and assistance with crucial civil documentation,” said UNHCR spokesperson, Boris Cheshirkov.
According to Cheshirkov, most refugees want nothing more to go home, and returning refugees said they were excited to restart their lives in their country after years in exile.
“The international community has the power to reduce the number of years refugees spend in exile.
“We must address the causes of conflict and help make it safer and easier for people to return.”
About 600 Congolese refugees have already expressed willingness to be repatriated, and more are likely to show interest with the operation resuming.
The voluntary repatriation is organised by UNHCR together with the Governments of Angola and the DRC, in collaboration with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and various partners.