KINSHASA, 12 Aug 2005 (IRIN) - The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Tanzania have agreed at a meeting to repatriate 152,000 Congolese refugees to South Kivu Province in September, despite concerns by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, about the security and human rights conditions there.
UNHCR Public Relations Officer Jens Hesmann told IRIN on Thursday that the three-day meeting in Lubumbashi, Katanga Province, involved representatives of the two governments and UNHCR. They signed a document of recommendations and practical modalities for the repatriation of the refugees.
Thursday's agreement was reached as more refugees continue to return home voluntarily following the start of voter registration on 20 June for the 2006 general elections. Hesmann said at least 10,000 Congolese refugees had returned home since October 2004.
UNHCR said 80 percent of those who had returned spontaneously entered Fizi and Uvira territories, in the east and south of South Kivu. During the first week of August, at least 700 refugees returned on their own, UNHCR said.
However, it said returnees were going to areas where their security could not be guaranteed due to the presence of Rwandan Hutu rebels and other armed groups. UNHCR said while it did not encourage the repatriation; it nevertheless helped refugees once they arrived in Congo.