UNHCR starts the fifth repatriation operation for Congolese refugees

Briefing Notes, 10 October 2006

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 10 October 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The first UNHCR convoy repatriating Congolese refugees from Burundi is scheduled to leave Gasorwe refugee camp in northern Burundi this morning. The convoy is taking back to Congo a group of some 300 refugees. The six-hour journey should end at Uvira, a border town in Congo's South Kivu province.

We began the repatriation of Congolese refugees in October 2004, first from the Central African Republic, then successively from the Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Sudan. So today's start of organized repatriation from Burundi marks the opening of the fifth return corridor to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

All of those returning on today's convoy are from the Rusizi Plains. The returnees are expected to spend the night at a transit centre set up by UNHCR in Uvira. Tomorrow (Wednesday), we will transport returnees to their homes. The Rusizi Plains are about 90 km from Uvira. Upon arrival, the returning refugees will receive basic assistance package including some household items, plastic sheeting, blankets and a three-month food ration. This assistance aims to address their immediate needs while they begin to rebuild.

Since July, more than 1,000 Congolese refugees in Burundi have registered for voluntary repatriation. A second convoy from Burundi is scheduled on 17 October, just before the brief suspension of all UNHCR cross-border repatriation movements to DRC from 21 October until 6 November due to the second round of DRC presidential elections scheduled for 29 October. This is a precautionary measure, already exercised by UNHCR during the first round of presidential elections. The convoys are expected to resume soon after, conditions allowing.

The majority of Congolese refugees in Burundi fled from the DRC's South Kivu province, mostly from the town of Uvira. Others came from the more distant provinces of Katanga and Maniema. Most of them fled to Burundi during the 1998 fighting between the government and rebel forces. Since then, some smaller groups have arrived sporadically in Burundi, fleeing long-term insecurity and instability in the DRC.

Of the estimated 24,500 Congolese refugees in Burundi, some 11,000 are living in Gasorwe and Gihinga refugee camps, while the rest are scattered in urban areas. In all, there are still more than 420,000 Congolese refugees in various countries of asylum.

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Intense fighting has forced more than 64,000 Congolese to flee the country in recent months.

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UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

As a massive food distribution gets underway in six UNHCR-run camps for tens of thousands of internally displaced Congolese in North Kivu, the UN refugee agency continues to hand out desperately needed shelter and household items.

A four-truck UNHCR convoy carrying 33 tonnes of various aid items, including plastic sheeting, blankets, kitchen sets and jerry cans crossed Wednesday from Rwanda into Goma, the capital of the conflict-hit province in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The aid, from regional emergency stockpiles in Tanzania, was scheduled for immediate distribution. The supplies arrived in Goma as the World Food Programme (WFP), with assistance from UNHCR, began distributing food to some 135,000 displaced people in the six camps run by the refugee agency near Goma.

More than 250,000 people have been displaced since the fighting resumed in August in North Kivu. Estimates are that there are now more than 1.3 million displaced people in this province alone.

Posted on 6 November 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

Since 2006, renewed conflict and general insecurity in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province has forced some 400,000 people to flee their homes – the country's worst displacement crisis since the formal end of the civil war in 2003. In total, there are now some 800,000 people displaced in the province, including those uprooted by previous conflicts.

Hope for the future was raised in January 2008 when the DRC government and rival armed factions signed a peace accord. But the situation remains tense in North Kivu and tens of thousands of people still need help. UNHCR has opened sites for internally displaced people (IDPs) and distributed assistance such as blankets, plastic sheets, soap, jerry cans, firewood and other items to the four camps in the region. Relief items have also been delivered to some of the makeshift sites that have sprung up.

UNHCR staff have been engaged in protection monitoring to identify human rights abuses and other problems faced by IDPs and other populations at risk across North Kivu.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Posted on 28 May 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

The Nansen Refugee Award 2005

Burundian humanitarian worker Maggy Barankitse received the 2005 Nansen Refugee Award for her tireless work on behalf of children affected by war, poverty and disease. The Nansen medal was presented at a grand ceremony in Brussels by H.R.H. Princess Mathilde of Belgium and UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Wendy Chamberlin.

Accepting the award, Barankitse said her work was inspired by one single goal: peace. "Accept your fellow man, sit down together, make this world a world of brothers and sisters," she said. "Nothing resists love, that's the message that I want to spread."

Sponsored by UNHCR corporate partner Microsoft, the ceremony and reception at Concert Noble was also attended by Belgium's Minister for Development Co-operation Armand De Decker, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel, renowned Burundian singer Khadja Nin, Congolese refugee and comedian Pie Tshibanda, and French singer and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Julien Clerc. Among others.

The Nansen Refugee Award 2005

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