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Physical violence and degrading practice against expelled Congolese in Angola

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Kinshasa - Since May 26, more than 30,000 Congolese expelled from Angola have crossed the border in Kahungula, Bandundu province, in the southwest of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In response to an alert launched by the Congolese authorities, an Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) team went on the ground to provide health care and to assess the situation of expelled people. A team from MSF's Emergency Unit in Congo - composed of a coordinator, doctor and nurse - brought a first medical assistance to those of the 600 to 700 Congolese expelled daily in need of health care and collected their testimonies.

"The expulsions present the characteristics of a large-scale scheme carried out in Angola," explained Bertrand Perrochet, Team Coordinator. "The expulsions occur from Malanje and Lunda Norte provinces, mostly by force - from compounds set up on diamonds sites - or voluntarily, from some urban areas."

According to testimonies collected by MSF, the Angolan army surrounds the diamonds mines where many Congolese migrants dig illegally and instructs them to leave. The men are led straight away, by foot or by truck, to closed compounds and from there in groups of a few hundreds to the Congolese border. The expelled people assisted by MSF in this area, about 80 percent men, have not been victims of systematic sexual violence, as it was the case in 2007. However, cases of physical violence are reported as well as cases of degrading vaginal and anal searches, undertaken by Angolan soldiers during the expulsion.

"The aim of those searches is to deprive the Congolese population of valuable goods - money or diamonds - before they leave the Angolan territory," explained Perrochet. "Some patients also tell about other types of physical violence, such as beating, knife or machete wounds, perpetrated by the Angolan armed forces or sometimes by the Angolan population, always with the aim to steal and deprive goods. One man we met there had been beaten by civilians because he refused to give his belt. He died from his wounds in Kahungula."

MSF will continue to follow the situation of expelled people closely. Every single day, teams of the Emergency Unit, in Kinshasa and in Lubumbashi, call their contacts in Bandundu province and in Kasangulu province, situated at the border. In addition, more than 2,600 Congolese have also been expelled from Angola via Kamako.

In December 2007, MSF denounced the systematic use of rape and violence by the Angolan army during the expulsions of Congolese migrants working in diamond mines in the Angolan province of Lunda Norte. MSF committed to closely follow up potential expulsions from Angola, in order to assess the health condition of the population on the border and to denounce potential abuses.