Congolese women and children have been subjected to rape and other abuses during a mass expulsion of migrant workers from Angola to the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to a report by the United Nations.
Angola has deported thousands of workers in recent months, with reports of similar purges and abuses in the past.
The exact size of the latest expulsion is not yet known, but according to previously unreported figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 12,000 workers have passed through one border crossing near the Congolese town of Kamako in the past six months.
The internal preliminary report by the United Nations stated:
“Girls who and women are arrested wherever they are, without the necessary needs, detained and then separated from their children and husbands, subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, sometimes raped.”
While the report did not explicitly identify the perpetrators, a doctor working in the area blamed civilians in Congo and Angolan security forces.
Victor Mikobi, a doctor who specializes in treating victims of sexual violence in Kamako, estimated that at least 14 rapes were committed by Angolan security forces based on accounts from patients treated at his health center.
Dozens of others were committed by civilians in Congo, he said. Local clinics have recorded 122 cases of rape this year, unprecedented levels for the town, and instances of gang rape have caused medical complications.
Angola’s migration authority spokesperson, Simão Milagres, denied the allegations of rape and other abuses, saying, “That’s not true. I can guarantee that there isn’t an institutional attitude promoting violence against migrants.”
However, a Congolese immigration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that officials had discussed dozens of rapes on both sides of the border in meetings.
Mass deportations from Angola to Congo have happened every few years, with the largest one in 2018 resulting in the expulsion of 330,000 workers. In 2010, the U.N. estimated that over 650 people suffered sexual violence during expulsions from Angola.
The crackdown on illegal workers in Angola comes as the country seeks to promote legal migration through an online visa application process, according to the migration authority spokesperson, Milagres.
The situation in Kamako, where many migrant workers end up after being expelled from Angola, has been described as an “open-air migrant camp” by Fabien Sambussy, the head of the IOM’s Congo mission.
Abbé Trudon Keshilemba, president of a group of civil society organizations in Kamako, explained that “The Congolese end up occupying whole villages in Angola, and the Angolans feel that they will disappear.”
The Congolese immigration officer expressed helplessness, stating, “We are witnessing this without being able to do anything due to a lack of resources.”