Repatriation starts for DRC refugees

2012-05-10 14:10
Kinshasa - The UN has started repatriating about 81 000 refugees to the Democratic Republic of Congo from neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville, the world body announced on Thursday.

The repatriation process "began on 05 May with a first test convoy of 79 refugees who left Betou" in northern Congo "for the destination of Bongo" in DRC's north-western Equateur province, the UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) said in a statement.

The two governments and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will ramp up the repatriation drive in the coming days, the statement added.

The initiative "aims to repatriate about 81 000 refugees by the end of 2013, including 49 000 this year," Ocha said.

The refugees fled Equateur province after insurgents of the Enyele tribe in October 2009 began to attack members of another ethnic group in a bid for control of ponds rich in fish, before confronting DRC's army several times until April 2010.

The return programme is being protected by Congo-Brazzaville's security forces backed up by troops of the UN mission in DRC (Monusco).

Initially planned to begin in April 2011, the repatriation process was delayed for logistical and security reasons.

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