Zambia to close 2 DRC refugee camps

2010-09-23 20:33

Lusaka - Zambia is on track to close two camps for refugees from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over the next month, with a total of 40 000 people repatriated, the UN refugee agency said on Thursday.

Kala camp in north Zambia is scheduled to close on Tuesday while the nearby Mwange camp would be closed by the end of October, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement.

"A total of 40 000 Congolese refugees have been repatriated from Zambia since 2007," UNHCR official Phillipe Creppy said.

"UNHCR and other partners feel the milestone has been achieved owing to the support from the two governments, donors and the willingness of refugees to return home."

About 6 200 refugees have returned to the DRC since March, as plans to close the camps gained steam, he said.

"The plan for 2010 is to repatriate 7 000. So we are way on target. The willingness of Congolese refugees to repatriate at Kala and Mwange camps is very high," said Creppy.

Creppy said that once the two camps were closed, Congolese refugees who want to remain in Zambia would be relocated to Maheba settlement in North Western province.

Most of the refugees fled during the war that erupted in DRC in 1998, sucking in six other countries with an array of rebel groups. An estimated 5.4 million people died in the conflict and the resulting humanitarian crisis.

Millions were displaced from their homes, with many seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.

But after elections in 2006, pressure has grown for refugees to return home.

Zambia, one of the poorest countries in the world, has little to offer the refugees as an incentive to move. The UNHCR will provide food for three months after their return home, and donors are financing their transport.