UNHCR warns of urgent need for sites to host DRC refugees in ROC and CAR

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 12 January 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

More than 107,000 Congolese refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have now fled to the Republic of Congo (ROC) since early November. Another 17,000 refugees have crossed into the Central African Republic (CAR). In CAR we estimate that at least 60 per cent are children, many of whom fled from orphanages.

They fled from the Equateur province of north-west DRC after fighting started in late October when Enyele militiamen launched deadly assaults on ethnic Munzayas over fishing and farming rights in the Dongo area. The tensions have since expanded to most parts of Equateur province. The DRC army has launched an offensive against the Enyele militia.

There is an acute need for formal refugee sites to be established in both CAR and ROC, as the majority of the DRC refugees occupy public buildings and spaces. This massive influx is severely stretching the meager resources of this impoverished region, which could lead to tensions with the local community. In Mougoumba in CAR the refugees outnumber the locals by 200 to one, while the Likouala region of northern ROC has seen its population double with the arrival of 107,000 refugees.

Although land has been allocated to accommodate 4,000 refugees in ROC, more space needs to be designated for refugee sites and discussions are ongoing with both ROC and CAR governments. Meanwhile UNHCR has sent emergency staff to support the widely dispersed refugee communities in this region.