Two UN repatriation programmes for Congolese refugees top 10000 mark

About 255 Congolese left the neighbouring Republic of Congo Tuesday to return to their villages in Equateur Province, home of Africa’s biggest rainforest. With this fifty-seventh convoy that crossed the River Oubangui, the agency (UNHCR) said today it has brought more than 10,240 Congolese back to Equateur Province.Another UNHCR voluntary repatriation programme also passed the 10,000 mark when refugees travelled by boat today to DRC’s South Kivu Province from Tanzania. More than 10,100 refugees have returned home under this programme that began in October. Camps in western Tanzania shelter about 150,000 Congolese.Returnees receive a start-up package that includes food for three months, supplies such as blankets, sleeping mats and a kitchen set, and a shelter kit containing a machete, saw, hammer, roofing nails and plastic sheeting.About 20,000 refugees from the Sudan and the DRC, including many living in exile for nearly four decades, will start returning home next month under pacts signed in late January by the agency and both African governments.The two tripartite agreements laid out the legal framework for the return of 13,300 Sudanese refugees in the DRC and 6,800 Congolese refugees who have been calling Sudan home since the mid-1960s. Sudanese had fled fighting to north-eastern DRC.“We hope that conditions in other areas of the DRC will soon improve to allow for organized returns to start,” said UNHCR’s representative in DRC, Eusebe Hounsokou.About 45,000 Congolese from Katanga Province remain in Zambia, but the continuing insecurity does not encourage returns there to start any time soon.More than 52,000 people, including Congolese refugees who made their way back on their own, have returned to the DRC since October 2004. read more