May 11, 2004
Angola Ceases Expulsion of Congolese Diamond Miners
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs reported last week that the situation of tens of thousands of Congolese diamond mining refugees fleeing to the provinces of Bandundu and Kasai Occidental in Democratic Republic of Congo is "stabilizing." On April 19, 606 people were registered entering into Bandundu Province, only ten days later the number had dropped to approximately 20 per day, says OCHA.
The improvement came after Congolese authorities asked that Angola cease the expulsion of immigrants from the diamond-rich Angolan province of Lunda Norte until better conditions for their return were arranged, says the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network.
In related news, reports of the sexual abuse of Congolese diamond miners working in Lunda Norte by Angolan military personnel have continued, says the U.N. The Angolan authorities claimed several weeks ago they were looking for hidden diamonds among the workers before expelling them.
Human Rights Watch and relief workers for Medecins Sans Frontieres reported that Angolan soldiers have also been denying Congolese miners food, water and basic human needs. MSF and other international players demanded that both the Angolan and Congolese governments protect the human rights of Congolese miners.
In reaction to the flood of diamond mining refugees into DRC, several human rights organizations have responded with humanitarian aid. The U.N. Children's Fund began distributing non-food items in Bandundu Province and is also moving some supplies to other areas in preparation for the next wave of refugees. The U.N.'s OCHA also reported that the U.N. World Food Program was distributing eight-day rations to the expellees. Officials estimate that 80,000 to 100,000 illegal migrants have or will be expelled from Lunda Norte.
by Julie Eubank