The Angolan government has expelled close to 300 000 citizens from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in what it calls a clampdown on diamond smuggling. Human rights groups have criticised the mass expulsions, which they claim are not only targeting criminals but also vulnerable refugees.
It is estimated that 300,000 people have been sent back from Lucapa, an Angolan town, to the neighbouring but unstable Kasai province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. This mass exit is said to have been triggered by ethnic violence between Angolan citizens and the migrants who were digging for diamonds in the town. There are reports of deaths, injuries, and the looting of homes belonging to migrants.
“Unicef estimates that among the returnees more than 80,000 are children and these children are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance,” said Christophe Boulierac, a Unicef Spokesperson.
The Angolan government denies that there were deaths in the ethnic scuffles but admits there was a government programme called Operation Transparency, which was targeting foreigners involved in illegal diamond smuggling in an effort to clean up the mining industry. Angola maintains that most migrants left the country voluntarily.
This has created tension between the neighbours, who share the longest border on the African continent, stretching for 2,500km. “We invite the Angolan government to carry out a thorough investigation in order to establish who was responsible for the reprehensible acts,” DRC Foreign Minister, Leonard She Okitundu, said in a press conference.