High Commissioner Guterres visits CAR refugees in DR Congo

Briefing Notes, 12 April 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 12 April 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

High Commissioner Guterres is today visiting refugees from the Central African Republic in a remote and difficult to access area of northern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Amid reports of continuing insecurity and fighting inside CAR and the capital, Bangui, people have been crossing the Oubangui River and seeking shelter in DRC's Equateur and Orientale provinces. We have pre-registered more than 29,500 refugees from Central African Republic, including almost 24,000 in Equateur.

The refugees are located along a 600-kilometre stretch of the river and Guterres will be visiting the riverside Equateur towns of Zongo and Libenge. In Zongo, he will meet some of the 1,800 refugees staying there with host families. Most arrived after rebels fighters captured Bangui on March 23.

From Zongo, he will travel 20 kilometres by car to Worobe, a camp housing more than 2,270 refugees from Central African Republic. UNHCR and its partners are providing assistance and protection in the camp.

Zongo lies opposite Bangui on the banks of the Oubangui River and has welcomed many refugees. A new camp for an initial 10,000 refugees is being created at Inke, in Equateur's North Oubangui district.

The needs of the refugees are significant, but access to the area is difficult. UNHCR is working with the authorities in the DRC as well as two other receiving countries, Cameroon and Chad, to provide protection and assistance. We have been registering the refugees, distributing aid, setting up emergency shelters and working with partner organizations to provide health and education support.

In Libenge, the High Commissioner will visit UNHCR-supported reintegration projects for refugee returnees and learn the latest about the situation of the almost 65,000 Congolese refugees voluntary repatriated with UNHCR help since May last year from the Republic of Congo, which also lies across the Oubangui River. The operation is continuing and has helped back almost 18,000 this year alone.

The returnees around Libenge are among more than 140,000 civilians who fled to neighbouring countries to escape inter-ethnic clashes sparked by fishing and farming disputes in Equateur in late 2009.

Tomorrow, in Kinshasa, Guterres is scheduled to meet senior government officials, including President Joseph Kabila and Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo, for talks on the situation of the CAR refugees and UNHCR's other work in the country.

UNHCR runs a major operation in Democratic Republic of the Congo, helping more than 2.5 million internally displaced people, mostly in the east and north, tens of thousands of refugees from other African countries. It has also helped repatriate refugees from Republic of Congo, Angola, Rwanda and Burundi.

We also help tens of thousands of Congolese refugees in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, many of whom fled renewed violence and general lawlessness in eastern DRC over the past year. We are extremely concerned about regional stability, given the situation in eastern DRC and new crises in Central African Republic and Sudan's Darfur region. For further information on this topic, please contact:

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In CAR (on mission), Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 34 83
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The High Commissioner

António Guterres, who joined UNHCR on June 15, 2005, is the UN refugee agency's 10th High Commissioner.

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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.

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UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

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