By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
A fresh humanitarian crisis is in the making along the Angolan/Congolese border. Since the beginning of October, more than 450,000 Congolese migrants working in diamond mines in the northeast of Angola have been expelled. The UN has cited excessive force and human rights violations against these migrants on the part of both Angolan and Congolese security forces.
The expulsion of these miners was sudden. They are fleeing across the Angolan border into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) provinces of Kasai, Kasai Central and Kwango. At least 6 migrants have died and 100 others have been injured. Others have allegedly been subjected to extortion and illegal taxation in the border town of Kamako on the part of DRC security forces.
Catholic parishes and the local Caritas in Kamako have mobilized in order to assist the hundreds of thousands of expelled migrants. But resources at hand are completely disproportionate to the number of people in need.
One parish Caritas office in Kamako opened all of its structures in order to welcome the migrants. This has allowed 2,300 people to find refuge. Other local parish Caritas offices are also organizing themselves in order to welcome other migrants.
Caritas Congo is coordinating the efforts of local Caritas offices on the ground. It is in contact with Caritas Internationalis in order to put a strategic plan in place.
UN Human Rights Chief, Michelle Bachelet, has urged Angola’s government to halt the expulsions. She also called on the Congolese government to provide the expelled migrants with protection against extortion and violence.
Despite being rich in mineral and natural resources, the DRC is among the poorest countries in the world. It is emblematic in terms of the inequality and the contradictions in the world economic and financial systems. For decades the DRC has experienced internal conflicts and has been the victim of exploitation for the benefit and profit of mostly foreign interest groups and companies.