from ARNOLD MULENGA in Lusaka, Zambia
LUSAKA, (CAJ News) – THE first batch of Congolese refugees has returned home from Zambia.
The 100 individuals repatriated are among nearly 5 000 that voluntarily decided to return home.
They fled to Zambia to escape violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) four years ago
The voluntary repatriation, which will continue until 2022, follows on from the tripartite agreement signed in 2006 by the United Nations High Commission for Refugee (UNHCR) and the governments of Zambia and DRC.
UNHCR and World Food Programme (WFP) provided two buses and two trucks to transport the refugees and their belongings, as well as food for the trip.
In addition, they will receive a cash allowance to help them get back to living in the DRC.
Individuals are repatriated from Mantapala camp, in Luapula province, to Pweto, in Haut-Katanga province in the DRC.
“The security conditions have indeed improved sufficiently for a dignified and secure return,” Babar Baloch, UNHCR spokesperson, said.
Following investigations carried out by the UNHCR in October, some 4 774 Congolese refugees have expressed the intention to return voluntarily to their country.
As security improved in parts of Haut-Katanga, around 20 000 refugees have spontaneously left Zambia since 2018 to return to their areas of origin.
About 18 000 Congolese refugees live in Mantapala camp alongside 5 000 Zambians, spread across 11 integrated villages.
The camp was established in early 2018 to accommodate refugees who were displaced following inter-ethnic clashes as well as fighting between Congolese security forces and militias in parts of southeastern DRC in 2017.
In total, Zambia hosts some 103 028 refugees, asylum seekers and former refugees.
– CAJ News