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Last Updated: Monday, 5 September 2005, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Concerns over DR Congo refugees
Family in Democratic Republic of Congo
Many Congolese have fled violence in recent years
The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has expressed concern over the conditions awaiting refugees returning to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

About 400,000 refugees are still in neighbouring countries. The UNHCR says 30,000 have returned since October.

More are expected to return ahead of elections due in DR Congo next year.

A UNHCR spokesman told the BBC that it was concerned over reports that the refugees were suffering harassment from armed groups as well as the military.

Spokesman Jan Hesseman also said that although conditions had improved in some areas, there were still question marks over whether the refugees were returning to the DR Congo voluntarily.

"There are lots of different factors we have to take into account when talking about the return of refugees, for example the absorption capacity in their zone of origin, the security conditions in the zone of origin and the human rights situation," Mr Hesseman told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

"We found, for example, that in South Kivu there are still a lot of concerns with regard to human rights violations, for example harassment by armed elements and the military and the illegal occupation of returnees' houses," he added.

He said the UNHCR was still evaluating the conditions of return for refugees who are currently in Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda, but this evaluation was a "very large operation".


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