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Group of DRC refugees has left SA and voluntarily returned home

29 March 2022 - 07:00
Home affairs minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has welcomed the voluntary repatriation of the first group of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo to their home country. File photo.
Home affairs minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has welcomed the voluntary repatriation of the first group of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo to their home country. File photo.
Image: TREVOR SAMSON

Home affairs minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi on Monday welcomed the voluntary repatriation of 49 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) back to their home country.

This is the first group of about 400 refugees who have expressed a desire to return to the DRC.

The repatriation was in collaboration with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The ministry and the agency said individual reviews carried out by the UNHCR have ensured that returns are voluntary, and that the refugees will return safely and with dignity.

Home affairs said it was collaborating with the UNHCR to implement the outcome of agreements after a high-level bilateral meeting in January.

Motsoaledi and Gillian Triggs, assistant high commissioner for protection for the UNHCR, met in January to review and take forward the strategic approaches to the management of asylum and refugees in SA. 

Facilitating voluntary repatriation, which includes countries of origin taking responsibility for their nationals by facilitating their arrival home, was one of the key outcomes of the meeting.

“Progressive partnerships will help us to resolve some of the challenges around the international protection afforded to vulnerable people.

We believe that with time and a conducive environment, which must be created by all stakeholders, these numbers (of refugees returning home) will increase exponentially
Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, hoLubumbashime affairs

“The voluntary repatriation process is also an example of how personal circumstances of vulnerable people can change to an extent that they can return to their home countries when the conditions allow,” Motsoaledi said.

Valentin Tapsoba, UNHCR’s regional bureau director for Southern Africa, said it was grateful to SA for its generosity in providing sanctuary to people fleeing violence, persecution and human rights abuses and for supporting this group of Congolese refugees to safely go home.

The refugees are returning to the capital Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, areas considered safe for refugees to return to. Before commencing their journey, all refugees undertook rapid testing for Covid-19. On arrival in the DRC, returning families are given cash to help them restart their lives, in addition to a transport allowance.

However, the department and UNHCR said more support is needed to achieve sustainable reintegration for those returning, as well as for the communities receiving them.

The UNHCR expects to repatriate up to 400 refugees from SA in 2022, up from 275 last year.

“We believe that with time and a conducive environment which must be created by all stakeholders, these numbers will increase exponentially,” Motsoaledi said.

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