DRC: Humanitarians ease the plight of those expelled from Angola

14 April, 2012
Democratic Republic of the Congo: Congolese men expelled from Angola. Credit: CISP
Democratic Republic of the Congo: Congolese men expelled from Angola. Credit: CISP

Humanitarian agencies are supporting tens of thousands of Congolese immigrants expelled from Angola, many of whom say they were subjected to violence and abuse. 

Last year, Angola expelled more than 100,000 Congolese nationals across their 2,500 km common border. And since late 2003, Angola has expelled some 400,000 illegal immigrants, most of whom were also Congolese. The majority of those expelled are undocumented labourers who work in diamond mines close to the border. 
 
In 2011, the UN provided US$2.8 million from the humanitarian pooled fund for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This funding enabled international NGOs, including Comitato Internazionale per lo Sviluppo dei Popoli (CISP) and CARITAS, to monitor the border areas and help those in greatest need. They provided food for a few days, a place to sleep, medical care, transport, and access to qualified care for people subjected to abuse, including sexual violence. 
 
UN agencies, including the World Health Organization and the UN Population Fund, have also strengthened the quality of health services in the border areas. They have provided medical staff with training, equipment and medicines. 
 
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), local NGOs and civil society organizations on the ground have provided protection and basic aid. This includes food, clothing, emergency shelter and cooking sets to new arrivals along the border. 
 
“What really concerns the humanitarian community is not the fact that illegal immigrants are expelled, but the way in which this happens,” says Barbara Shenstone, OCHA Head of Office in DRC. “The conditions create enormous and unacceptable human suffering. The humanitarian community is doing everything it can to assist those who arrive, but ultimately the expulsions need to be carried out in an organized, safe and dignified way.” 
 
Margot Wallström, the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, published a report on sexual violence in conflict in February this year. It states that 3,768 expelled Congolese, including 998 children, were subjected to sexual violence, including rape, between January and October 2011. 
 
“Many of the Congolese who have been expelled say that they have been beaten and tortured. Women and girls of all ages talk about sexual exploitation and rape,” says Antonio Mangia from CISP. “After they have lived through all this, they are then forced to walk several days to the border, suffering malnutrition, dehydration and exhaustion.” 
 
Reporting by Niels Stassyns/ OCHA DRC