Angola seizes diamonds, expels half a million migrants

Angolan authorities have expelled more than half a million undocumented migrants in the past year as part of an operation to target diamond smuggling, the government said Friday.

Congolese migrants (pictured October 2018) gather at Chissanda border post in Dundo in northern Angola, as the Angolan government repatriates thousands of illegal immigrants as part of an operation to target diamond smuggling

Mineral-rich Angola is a major producer of diamonds but the government believes many are bought and sold illegally by foreigners.

"The authorities have repatriated 527,725 illegal immigrants, closed down 96 illegal diamond cooperatives, four mining projects and 289 shops," said a spokesman for the presidency, Pedro Sebastiao, during a press conference.

Tens of thousands of diamonds have been seized since Angola's "Operation Transparency" was launched in September 2018.

Angola's government says the move is meant to regulate the mining industry by tackling illegal mining operations and undocumented migration.

It was launched by President Joao Lourenco, who came to power in 2017 and has been struggling to revive the country's faltering economy.

Human Rights Watch condemned the operation as "abusive," saying more than 400,000 people were either forcibly deported or pushed to flee to neighbouring DR Congo in October last year.

The government has repeatedly denied the allegations.

The mandate for Operation Transparency was extended to Angola's coastline in March to fight "illegal fishing, the smuggling of goods and fuel and drug trafficking," said Sebastiao.

A total of 356 fishing boats have been seized, he added.

Sub-Saharan Africa's second-largest oil producer was hit hard by a global slump in crude prices in 2014.

Lourenco has so far failed to deliver the economic "miracle" promised during his campaign.

With little economic diversification, the state continues to rely on oil for 70 percent of its revenue.

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