- The voluntary repatriation of Congolese refugees has resumed, with the International Organisation of Migration ferrying at least 409 refugees left at Kala refugee camp in South Kivu province.
The refugees travelled onboard IOM chartered buses to Mpulungu, on the southern shores of Lake Tanganyika, where they boarded a UNHCR chartered ship, MV Liemba for the final leg of their journey home.
The returnees will be met by officials of the IOM and UNHCR. Before being transported to their final destinations, all the returnees will receive food rations for two months from the World Food Programme. They will also get seeds and agricultural tools from the Food Agricultural Organisation and various household items.
Plans are afoot to repatriate a total of 2,400 Congolese refugees who want to return home voluntarily after spending years in Zambian refugee camps.
In August, a vicious attack on the UN premises forced it to withdraw operation in Moba. This also led to the suspension of returns by boat.
IOM has also been organizing return by land via the border town of Pweto. So far this year, IOM and its UN partners have helped more than 5,600 Congolese refugees return to Eastern DRC.
IOM's repatriation programme is funded by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO) and the US Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration.
Last month, hundreds of refugees in northern Zambia's Kala and Mwange camps called on the visiting UNHCR and DRC government officials to resume the suspended repatriation programme.
About 87% of the 43,000 Congolese refugees who still live in camps in Zambia are expected to return home through Moba territory.
The refugees asked DRC officials whether they would assist them to re-integrate successfully in the country. They need job-creation schemes and assistance for the landless among them.
Since it began the repatriation of Congolese refugees from Zambia in May 2007, the UN refugee agency has helped more 5,000 people to return to Katanga province.
It has assisted some 43,000 Congolese refugees from the neighbouring countries to voluntarily return home.
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