(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

UN refugee agency repatriates 42 Congolese

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has repatriated the first group of 42 Congolese in Angola, some of whom had been there since 1996, the agency's head of external relations in Kinshasa, Jens Hensmann, said on Monday.

Others, he said, had fled to Angola because of recent fighting in border areas such as Katanga. Hesemann said the returnees re-entered Congo on Wednesday through the Dilolo border post in the west of the southern province of Katanga. They were sent directly to their villages.

"This is symbolic because Dilolo was the crossing point for Angolans who sought refuges in DRC and returned home. This time the movement is in the opposite direction with returning Congolese," he said.

Wednesday's returnees bring to 11,200 the number of Congolese assisted and spontaneous returnees from different countries since October 2004.

Hesemann said the effort to return home the Congolese from Angola was part of a three-year programme for 377,000 Congolese in 10 countries, 13,000 of whom were in Angola.

However, he said, the UNHCR would only repatriate them to safe areas.

"For example," Hesemann said, "we will not be able to do it for the South Kivu or east of Katanga where there is fear, human rights violations and insecurity created by armed groups."

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