Home Affairs Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, on Monday welcomed the voluntary repatriation of 49 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
This is because of the collaboration between the Department of Home Affairs and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
This is the first group of approximately 400 refugees who have expressed a desire to return to the DRC. Individual reviews carried out by UNHCR have ensured that returns are voluntary and that the refugees will return in safety and dignity.
The department and the UNHCR are collaborating to implement the outcome of the Durable Solutions in the joint agreement following the High Level Bilateral Meeting held on 25 January 2022.
Facilitating voluntary repatriation, which includes countries of origin taking responsibility for their nationals by facilitating their arrival home, is one of the key outcomes of the January meeting.
“Progressive partnerships will help us to resolve some of the challenges around the international protection afforded to vulnerable people.
“The voluntary repatriation process is also an example of how personal circumstances of vulnerable people can change to an extent that they can return to their home countries when the conditions allow,” Minister Motsoaledi said.
“We are very grateful to the government of South Africa for its generosity in providing sanctuary to people fleeing violence, persecution and human rights abuses and for supporting this group of Congolese refugees to safely go home,” said, UNHCR’s Regional Bureau Director for Southern Africa, Valentin Tapsoba.
The refugees are returning to the capital Kinshasa and the city of Lubumbashi, in the south-east of the country, areas considered safe for refugees to return to.
Before commencing their journey, all refugees undertook rapid testing for COVID-19. On arrival in the DRC, returning families are given cash assistance to help them restart their lives, in addition to a transport allowance.
However, more support is needed to achieve sustainable reintegration for those returning as well as for the communities receiving them.
UNHCR expects to repatriate up to 400 refugees from South Africa in 2022, up from 275 last year.
“We believe that with time and a conducive environment which must be created by all stakeholders, these numbers will increase exponentially,” Minister Motsoaledi said.