This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Charlie Yaxley – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
Thousands of Congolese refugees are returning from Angola to the Kasai region in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where fighting amongst armed groups has lessened and security conditions have improved.
The first group of a few hundred people will return as part of a voluntary repatriation, which will officially being this week, following the signing on 23 August of a tripartite agreement between UNHCR and the Governments of Angola and DRC on voluntary returns.
In total, more than 4,000 refugees are expected to be assisted to return home in the coming weeks. UNHCR is providing returnees with transport, as well as cash assistance to help them reintegrate.
Meanwhile, since 18 August, some 12,000 Congolese refugees, including nearly 7,000 children, have spontaneously returned home from the Lovua settlement in Angola’s Lunda Norte province. UNHCR is grateful to the Angolan authorities for swiftly providing the returnees with trucks to assist them with their journey back to DRC.
Many of those returning spontaneously are facing extremely challenging living conditions. UNHCR is providing them with cash assistance, as well as humanitarian aid together with provincial authorities and NGO partners, at the border town of Kalamba Mbuji, where UNHCR has set up an emergency transit centre.
Similar assistance is also being provided to returnees who have reached Kananga, the capital of Kasai Central province.
Although fighting amongst armed groups has calmed, some refugees are still uncertain about the condition in which they will find their homes. Some are unwilling to return to their homes and are moving elsewhere, as they fear a return of inter-ethnic violence.
Public infrastructure, such as schools and health centers, have been badly damaged during multiple periods of fighting and are yet to be repaired. Existing facilities lack the capacity to meet all of the needs of returnees.
UNHCR continues to support the Government of DRC’s efforts to provide and restore basic services, and to promote social cohesion and reintegration efforts. UNHCR, through our partner War Child UK, is also conducting protection monitoring in Kananga and surrounding areas to identify and profile protection concerns, and ensure adequate responses.
However, massive financial support is needed from the international community, to humanitarian organisations and to the Government of DRC, to create sustainable conditions for returnees.
Current levels of funding are far below the amount needed to allow for a major rebuilding programme. For 2019, UNHCR has received just 57 per cent of US$150 million needed to help people affected by the DRC crisis.