Angola denies killing Congolese in crackdown on diamond smuggling
About 380,000 illegal migrants, mostly from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), have left Angola in less than a month during a massive operation targeting diamond smuggling, a state minister says.
On a visit to Dundo in northern Angola on the border with the DRC, Pedro Sebastiao dismissed allegations that the migrants had been violently expelled and beaten by police.
He said that the migrants had all left voluntarily, and 231 premises for illegal diamond trading had been closed and 59 weapons seized.
Sebastiao, a state minister and the head of presidential security who is in charge of the operation, told reporters that diamonds worth more than $1m had been seized.
After pouring across the border in recent weeks, many Congolese have described being brutally thrown out of Angola after sometimes living there for more than 10 years.
Migrants who crossed back to the frontier town of Kamako said their houses had been burnt by police and gangs of Angolan youths. Some had been attacked with machetes and beaten as they fled.
With 1,000 arrivals crossing some border posts every hour, many have been left in the DRC Congo without shelter and adequate food and water as authorities struggle to cope.
"During displacement, DRC nationals have experienced violence and human rights abuses, and many have arrived with almost nothing," ACAPS, an humanitarian crisis group, said in a briefing note.
"Although the Angolan government claims all returns are voluntary, there have been reports of forced returns."
The DRC threatened to take international action against Angola over the allegedly violent expulsions.
"Operation Transparency is not based on any xenophobic sentiment against citizens of neighbouring countries," Sebastiao said.