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Thousands of Congolese Voluntarily Return from Angola Ahead of May 15th Deadline

By International Office of Migration (IOM)
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GENEVA, Switzerland, May 14, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- IOM is working with the authorities and humanitarian partners in the Democratic Republic of Congo to assess the situation of some 39,500 irregular Congolese migrants who have voluntarily returned home from Angola in the past six weeks ahead of a threatened May 15th expulsion deadline.

The returnees, who include over 8,400 women and children, are now concentrated near a border crossing in Kamako, in the DRC's Kasai Occidental province bordering Angola. The influx has stretched services in the area to the limit and the lack of temporary shelter has forced returnees to seek refuge in schools, churches and other community spaces. Only 17 basic health facilities have been identified in the surrounding area.

IOM is currently working with the DRC's National Working Group on Expelled Angolans to conduct an assessment, in coordination with Provincial Inter-Agency Committee (CPIA) in Kananga, to determine the number of returnees, their vulnerability and that of host communities, to assess local capacity and to identify priority areas of intervention.

It also plans to use its displacement tracking capacity to track the movements of the group, identify evolving needs, particularly of the most vulnerable, and provide targeted humanitarian assistance.

IOM Angola, which has experience of multi-sectoral needs assessments, will also expand its presence at relevant sub-offices along the Angola-DRC border and coordinate with IOM DRC.

The returns were triggered by an agreement between the Governors of Kasai Occidental in the DRC and Luanda Norte province in Angola to facilitate the voluntary return of irregular Congolese migrants living in Angola.

The Angolan authorities subsequently announced a May 15th deadline for voluntary returns, after which they reserved the right to expel remaining irregular Congolese migrants.

IOM is currently working with the DRC, a country bordering nine other states, to strengthen its integrated border management system. This capacity building includes incorporating humanitarian principles into border management - an approach designed to cope with this type of emergency.