AFRICA/DEMOCRATIC CONGO - UNHCR starts repatriation of 58,000 refugees from Congo Republic to Democratic Congo, Equateur province

Wednesday, 27 April 2005

Rome (Fides Service) - At the moment, the province of Equateur is the only one in Democratic Congo where the United Nations High Commission for Refugees is assisting the repatriation process of refugees. In the past two years the situation in Equateur has been relatively stable and many refugees decided to return home. In the past 12 months UNHCR has helped 2,000 refugees return from the Central African Republic.
Tomorrow, 28 April, UNHCR will start a programme for the repatriation of about 58,000 refugees, originally from Democratic Congo (formerly Zaire) who have lived for the past six years in camps in the Republic of Congo.
Already 8,000 refugees have signed up for repatriation. Logistic difficulties start already in the Republic of Congo where many refugees live on the banks of the River Oubangui and can only be reached by boat. The refugees will be embarked on timber boats built locally and sail 4-6 hours to Libenge where they will spend the night in a transit centre. At the transit centre will be given hot meals, medical care and assistance with regard to immigration procedure. In view of resettlement in their own country they will be provided with materials and plastic sheeting to build a temporary shelter, food supplies, cooking utensils before continuing from Libenge the journey to their respective areas on trucks and then on foot.
The operation of repatriation from the Republic of Congo is expected to conclude at the end of 2007. When is has been completed the organisation will continue to monitor the conditions of the returnees, re-integration in society, housing, healthcare, schooling and creation of income through projects some of which have already started. (AP) (27/4/2005 Agenzia Fides; Righe:29 Parole:343)