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

Tanzanian refugees return to Zanzibar

The UN refugee agency has successfully completed the voluntary repatriation of 38 Tanzanian refugees from Zanzibar who had been residing in the Somalia capital, Mogadishu, for more than a decade. The group, comprising 12 families, was flown on two special UNHCR-chartered flights from Mogadishu to Zanzibar on July 6, 2012. From there, seven families were accompanied back to their home villages on Pemba Island, while five families opted to remain and restart their lives on the main Zanzibar island of Unguja. The heads of households were young men when they left Zanzibar in January 2001, fleeing riots and violence following the October 2000 elections there. They were among 2,000 refugees who fled from the Tanzanian island of Pemba. The remainder of the Tanzanian refugee community in Mogadishu, about 70 people, will wait and see how the situation unfolds for those who went back before making a final decision on their return.

Tanzanian refugees return to Zanzibar

The Reality of Return in Afghanistan

Beyond the smiles of homecoming lie the harsh realities of return. With more than 5 million Afghans returning home since 2002, Afghanistan's absorption capacity is reaching saturation point.

Landmine awareness training at UNHCR's encashment centres – their first stop after returning from decades in exile – is a sombre reminder of the immense challenges facing this war-torn country. Many returnees and internally displaced Afghans are struggling to rebuild their lives. Some are squatting in tents in the capital, Kabul. Basic needs like shelter, land and safe drinking water are seldom met. Jobs are scarce, and long queues of men looking for work are a common sight in marketplaces.

Despite the obstacles, their spirit is strong. Returning Afghans – young and old, women and men – seem determined to do their bit for nation building, one brick at a time.

Posted on 31 January 2008

The Reality of Return in Afghanistan

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