Congo Sends Asylum Seekers Back to U.S., Calling Deportation ‘Inhumane’

Somali refugee

Somali refugee

( – Six Congolese nationals and two Zambian citizens were sent back to the U.S. after Congolese officials called their deportations “inhumane.”

The six arrived last week aboard an American aircraft at Ndjili airport, said Congolese Human Rights Minister Marie Ange Mushobekwa, “handcuffed, chained to the ankles and hips as slaves.” Further, the expelled persons were given “diapers” as they were prohibited from getting up from their seats to use the toilet.

They traveled under those conditions for more than 20 hours, which the government official called “unacceptable”. Even if they were to be repatriated, the Minister said, it should be done in accordance with the agreement signed between the two countries, with respect for human dignity. Meanwhile, Rwandan police opened fire at a protest by several thousand Congolese refugees last week, whose food rations had been cut by 25 percent. At least eleven refugees were killed and 20 injured at the camp, police said Friday. Seven policemen were also injured.

The refugees, around 3,000 of them, had camped out outside U.N. offices over the cuts by the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR). On Thursday, police tried to disperse them using teargas, said police spokesman Theos Badege.

Rwandan police had confirmed only five dead in a statement on Friday that said they had acted after “demonstrators armed with stones, sticks and metal projectiles assaulted and wounded seven police officers.” The demonstrations demanding better living conditions or relocation began Tuesday in Kiziba camp, which hosts over 17,000 Congolese refugees.

UNHCR spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly expressed regret that continued appeals for maintaining calm and restraint were not considered. “This tragedy should have been avoided, and disproportionate use of force against desperate refugees is not acceptable,” she said in a statement. In January, UNHCR said it was cutting rations because only 2 percent of their funding appeal of 2018 had been funded. The World Food Program has warned of more cuts if its monthly requirements of $2.5 million are not met.

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