LUANDA — Tens of thousands of Angolans recently expelled from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo are in dire need of food, shelter and other aid, the UN refugee agency said Tuesday.
A UN mission over the weekend found nearly 30,000 people clustered around three overcrowded reception centres in Angola's north near the town of Mbanza Congo with one camp housing 18,000 people.
"You have the compounding factors of not having latrines and people drinking possibly contaminated water and with the rain coming, this is a recipe for disaster," said Luanda-based UNHCR protection officer, Yolande Ditewig.
"There is a lack of everything you can imagine, especially food and many people say they?ve not eaten for days," Ditewig told AFP.
In Geneva, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said the tens of thousands of displaced people included a "significant number" of recognised Angolan refugees who had been "forcibly returned" to their home country.
Cases of diarrhoea and vomiting were reported while people were drinking from nearby contaminated rivers, said UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic.
"Tens of thousands of Angolans recently expelled from the Democratic Republic of Congo are in dire need of humanitarian assistance in various sites around the town of Mbanza Congo," he told journalists.
Angola started bringing home nearly 30,000 of its citizens across the border by bus last week after the two countries agreed to stop a wave of deportations.
In a crackdown dubbed Operation Clean Up, Angola targeted migrants mainly from DR Congo and Republic of Congo, the two nations that surround its oil-rich Cabinda enclave.
Kinshasa responded in kind by focusing on Angolan migrants.
According to UN estimates, more than 160,000 Congolese men, women and children are reported to have been expelled from Angola and there are widespread reports of rapes and brutality.
The Angolans will be held in transit camps until they can be processed and transported to their original villages.
There are also concerns about how well the new arrivals will fit back into Angolan life.
"The family members that are receiving these people are themselves very poor or destitute," warned Ditewig.
"Many do not have the means to suddenly support an extra five or 10 people. The social impact of this process needs to be carefully monitored."
There are still more than 100,000 Angolan refugees in DR Congo, UNHCR said.
The two governments agreed last week to stop the expulsions from the two countries.
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