The present report is an update of the COI Focus of 20th July 2018 entitled Sort des Congolais rapatriés en République démocratique du Congo (RDC) depuis 2015 [Fate of Congolese repatriated to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 2015]. It concerns the attitude of the Congolese authorities towards their citizens returning after having illegally left the country and/or having applied for international protection (DPI) in Belgium and/or having lived there. The treatment of returned citizens by their authorities on account of their political, ethnic, religious or terrorist profile is not the subject of this research.
This report covers the period between July 2018 and May 2019.
Return to the country of origin should be considered when a foreigner no longer meets the conditions required for staying in Belgium. Such a return can be voluntary or forced. Voluntary return means that the decision to return comes from the foreigner, who can organise his travel by himself, or take advantage of a return programme co-ordinated by the Federal Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (Fedasil) and organised by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) or the Immigration Office (OE). On the other hand, return is forced when the person is sent back to his country of origin by the host country against his wishes. Forced returns are organised by the OE.
The DRC is the third largest country of displacement, with 5.1 million people, i.e. 4.4 million internally displaced persons, 620,800 refugees and 136,400 applicants for international protection. The majority of refugees from the DRC live in neighbouring countries (Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi).
An estimated 80,000 Congolese nationals are currently living in Belgium. Congolese nationals come to Belgium mainly to study, for family reasons and owing to enduring conflicts in the DRC. In 2017 and 2018, Belgium ranked third in terms of the number of applications for international protection from Congolese nationals in EU member states, after France and Greece.
Belgium has carried out (since 2006) campaigns in the DRC to prevent illegal immigration and to discourage Congolese nationals from migrating and applying for international protection in Belgium. Politically, relations between Belgium and the DRC have been quite tense in recent years, but since Félix Tshisekedi was sworn in as President at the beginning of 2019, there have been signs of an easing of tensions, in particular the authorisation given to Brussels Airlines to resume the frequency of its flights and the re-opening of the Maison Schengen.
In 2006, a Memorandum of Understanding was concluded with the DRC to facilitate the return of failed applicants for international protection and illegal immigrants. According to the sources consulted, this agreement works very well in practice and voluntary or forced returns have been organised for several years from Belgium to the DRC.
On their arrival at Njdili airport, persons forcibly returned to Kinshasa from Belgium undergo identification checks.
Catherine Ramos is the only source mentioning detentions and ill-treatment following forced repatriation of Congolese nationals (from Great Britain). The other sources consulted do not mention any such problems.
The organisation Getting the Voice Out published a communiqué at the time of the last collective repatriation on 26th March 2019 by Belgium to the DRC, but has not given any information relating to the reception of the Congolese nationals in their country of origin.
The report of the Dutch authorities devotes a chapter to repatriation to the DRC (without specifying the country of departure) which endorses the position of the UNHCR according to which no problems have been reported on the occasion of the forced return of Congolese nationals to the DRC.
The report of the American government specifies that checks take place at border posts, during which persons (no specific profile defined) can be harassed or are victims of extortion (or even detained until they have paid).
The other sources contacted (the Foreign Office, including the Immigration Officer stationed in Kinshasa, the adviser to the Identification and Deportation Section of the Interior Control Directorate, the International Organisation for Migration, and three human rights organisations active in the DRC) have not mentioned any problems encountered by Congolese nationals repatriated voluntarily or forcibly from Brussels to Kinshasa during the reporting period, i.e. between July 2018 and May 2019.
The policy implemented by the Commissioner General is based on a thorough analysis of accurate and up-to-date information on the general situation in the country of origin. This information is collated in a professional manner from various, objective sources, including the EASO, the UNHCR, relevant international human rights organisations, non-governmental organisations, professional literature and coverage in the media. When determining policy, the Commissioner General does not only examine the COI Focuses written by Cedoca and published on this website, as these deal with just one aspect of the general situation in the country of origin. The fact that a COI Focus could be out-of-date does not mean that the policy that is being implemented by the Commissioner General is no longer up-to-date.
When assessing an application for asylum, the Commissioner General not only considers the actual situation in the country of origin at the moment of decision-making, he also takes into account the individual situation and personal circumstances of the applicant for international protection. Every asylum application is examined individually. An applicant must comprehensively demonstrate that he has a well-founded fear of persecution or that there is a clear personal risk of serious harm. He cannot, therefore, simply refer back to the general conditions in his country, but must also present concrete, credible and personal facts.
There is no policy paper for this country available on the website.