Burundi: Congolese refugees turned away at DRC's border

Briefing Notes, 9 October 2009

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 9 October 2009, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is repeating its call for Congolese refugees currently in Burundi not to return to their native South Kivu. This follows an incident yesterday when more than 400 Congolese refugees from the recently closed camp in Gihinga, central Burundi, were stopped from entering their country by immigration officials of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The immigration services said their actions were based on security concerns for the group. The refugees had boarded 11 trucks provided by Burundian government yesterday morning, leaving behind another group of some 500 refugees waiting for their turn to return. When they reached the border they found it closed and the Burundian authorities took them back to Gihinga.

The refugees are being provisionally sheltered at the former camp, in classrooms and a health centre, waiting for the outcome of discussions between the Burundi authorities and DRC officials, who are expected to arrive in Bujumbura today from Kinshasa. The refugees are being cared for by the Burundian agency responsible for refugees --Office pour la Protection des Réfugiés et des Apatrides-- which is distributing food and water provided by UNHCR and high protein biscuits provided by WFP.

The Congolese refugees who were denied access to their country are those who earlier refused to relocate to the newly established Bwagiriza camp in eastern Burundi, claiming their security would not be guaranteed there. Bwagiriza camp is presently sheltering some 1,200 mostly Congolese refugees, including 599 who voluntarily transferred from Gihinga earlier this week.

UNHCR has repeatedly urged the refugees not to go back to their native South Kivu province in DRC for the moment, stressing that that under the prevailing security conditions neither the Government authorities, nor UNHCR would be in a position to guarantee their safety on return.

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DR Congo Crisis: Urgent Appeal

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

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Return to Swat Valley

Thousands of displaced Pakistanis board buses and trucks to return home, but many remain in camps for fear of being displaced again.

Thousands of families displaced by violence in north-west Pakistan's Swat Valley and surrounding areas are returning home under a government-sponsored repatriation programme. Most cited positive reports about the security situation in their home areas as well as the unbearable heat in the camps as key factors behind their decision to return. At the same time, many people are not yet ready to go back home. They worry about their safety and the lack of access to basic services and food back in Swat. Others, whose homes were destroyed during the conflict, are worried about finding accommodation. UNHCR continues to monitor people's willingness to return home while advocating for returns to take place in safety and dignity. The UN refugee agency will provide support for the transport of vulnerable people wishing to return, and continue to distribute relief items to the displaced while assessing the emergency shelter needs of returnees. More than 2 million people have been displaced since early May in north-west Pakistan. Some 260,000 found shelter in camps, but the vast majority have been staying with host families or in rented homes or school buildings.

Return to Swat Valley

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

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