Saturday, December 4, 2021

Voluntary repatriation of refugees to the Central African Republic from DR Congo resumes

The UN Refugee Agency reports that it has resumed the voluntary repatriation of thousands of Central African Republic refugees living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Over the past two years, the UN Refugee Agency has helped more than 5,000 refugees return from the Congo to the Central African Republic. The voluntary operation, which had been interrupted twice, resumed on Friday.

The program was first stopped in March 2020 when both countries closed their borders to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The second hiatus came in December last year, when violence over the CAR presidential elections led to an estimated 92,000 refugees fleeing to the DRC.

UNHCR spokesman Shabiya Mantou says the first group of 250 refugees left the Molé camp in the city of Zongo in the northwestern Democratic Republic of the Congo last Friday.

A second group of 250 people left the camp on Tuesday morning, she said. Later, she said, a 20-minute boat ride would ferry the refugees across the Ubangi River to Bangui, the capital of the CAR.

“People are only returning to areas where security has improved over the past six months, such as Bangui and the Ombella Mpoko and Lobaye prefectures. Most of those intending to return fled their homes due to the violence in 2013. UNHCR and partners will also soon be organizing flights for the voluntary repatriation of refugees living in the Inke camp in North Ubangi province. Air transport is essential because of the distance and bad roads, ”Mantou said.

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Voluntary repatriation began in November 2019 following the signing of the Trilateral Agreement between CAR and DRC in July. Mantou says nearly 10,000 refugees in the three host camps have signed up for voluntary repatriation.

“UNHCR provides assistance to returning refugees and, together with partners, is working on reintegration projects in the CAR, including in the field of education and agriculture. About 206,346 CAR refugees live in camps and host communities in three provinces of the DRC. UNHCR and partners plan to help 6,500 of them return this year, ”Mantou said.

Since fighting broke out between armed groups in 2013, more than 680,000 refugees and asylum seekers have fled to Cameroon, DRC, the Republic of the Congo and Chad. About a third is located in the DRC. Another 630,000 people are displaced in the Central African Republic.

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