UNHCR begins moving Congolese refugees from transit centre to settlement in Uganda

Briefing Notes, 16 August 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 16 August 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Together with the Ugandan Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), on Wednesday we moved the first 864 refugees from Bubukwanga Transit Centre in Bundibugyo District to Kyangwali Refugee Settlement, a 10-hour drive to the northeast. There they will receive more comprehensive assistance such as building materials and household items to set up homes for themselves. So far, more than 5,600 refugees have been registered, and the vast majority more than 80 per cent have expressed their willingness to move to the refugee settlement.

The move went smoothly on Wednesday with the help of OPM and the Ugandan Red Cross Society. Refugees received water and WFP biscuits on departure and bananas at Kyenjojo way station. Though several buses experienced mechanical problems, the convoy arrived safely in Kyangwali around 18:30.

The Bubukwanga Transit Centre was established on 14 July to accommodate those refugees wishing to move away from the border and access basic assistance and protection. Although a temporary safe haven for those who fled attacks, the transit centre has become congested with close to 20,000 refugees staying in a space of 10.5 hectares designed to accommodate no more than 12,500 people. UNHCR site-planning and shelter experts say the situation poses serious safety and hygiene concerns.

With the onset of the wet season in Uganda, heavy rain has damaged some communal shelters. Bundibugyo District is in a mountainous area and the cold, wet conditions are also responsible for a significant rise in the number of respiratory-tract infections, now the most common ailment at the transit centre. The rain also hampers the delivery of humanitarian aid. For example, roads within the transit centre become impassable for trucks carrying clean water or food for the refugees.

Despite overcrowding, refugees continue to arrive daily at the transit centre. Many now make their own way there on motorbikes or on foot from the border more than 20 kilometres away. Some refugees continue to report low-level fighting and instability in DRC. Others who have been staying at the border and crossing back and forth to gather food during the day say they are now too frightened to return after hearing reports of people being kidnapped by armed groups.

UNHCR and its partners on the ground are actively seeking funding for this emergency to assist refugees at the Bubukwanga Transit Centre as well as those moving to the Kyangwali Refugee Settlement. An emergency regional appeal launched by UNHCR in March for refugees from eastern DRC is critically underfunded with only 45 per cent of the required USD 22.2 million received to date for the Uganda component. Meanwhile, the new influx of refugees means UNHCR has revised its requirements from the initial USD 22.2 million to USD 43.6 million.

The first relocation of refugees from Bubukwanga Transit Centre to Kyangwali Refugee Settlement will now be followed by twice-weekly convoys carrying some 1,000 people each.

For more information, please contact:

  • In Nairobi, Kitty Mckinsey at +254 735 337 608 or mckinsey@unhcr.org
  • In Geneva, Daniel MacIsaac at +41 79 200 76 17 or macisaac@unhcr.org
• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

A Time Between: Moving on from Internal Displacement in Uganda

This document examines the situation of IDPs in Acholiland in northern Uganda, through the stories of individuals who have lived through conflict and displacement.

DR Congo Crisis: Urgent Appeal

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

Donate to this crisis

Batalimo to Batanga and Beyond: Congolese Return Home from CAR

Over the past month, almost 6,300 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have left the Batalimo camp in the troubled Central African Republic and returned voluntarily to their homes in Equateur province. Their decision to go back is a further sign of the gravity of the situation in Central African Republic, where escalated violence since December has left hundreds of thousands internally displaced and forced almost 350,000 to flee to neighbouring countries. The refugees at Batalimo were among some 20,000 Congolese who had fled to the Central African Republic to escape inter-ethnic conflict back home. The return operation from Batalimo had been postponed several times for security and logistical reasons, but on April 10 the first convoy headed across the Oubangui River. The last arrived in the DRC on May 10. The UN refugee agency organized transportation of the refugees from Batalimo to the Central African Republic riverside town of Zinga, where they boarded boats for the crossing to Batanga or Libenge in Equateur province. In Batanga, the returnees were registered, provided with documentation and given a cash grant to help them reintegrate. They were then transported to their villages, where they will be monitored. Photographer Leonora Baumann followed one group back to the DRC.

Batalimo to Batanga and Beyond: Congolese Return Home from CAR

A Refugee Settlement Rises Again in Northern Uganda

Fighting in South Sudan between government troops and rival forces since December has displaced tens of thousands of people, many of whom have sought shelter at temporary transit and reception centres just inside northern Uganda. The UN refugee agency has since early January reopened three former refugee settlements and moved an estimated 50,000 to these sites deeper inside Uganda, where it is easier to provide them with protection and assistance. After being taken by truck to one such settlement, Nyumanzi I, lying some 30 kilometres from the border, the new arrivals are given relief items such as food, blankets, mats and kitchenware as well as a plot of land from the government on which to build a shelter. The settlement has been filling up quickly. UNHCR and partners have been working around the clock to build roads, install water distribution networks and provide access to health care. By early February, homes and small shops had sprung up across the settlement as the South Sudanese got on with their lives while closely monitoring the situation back home in the hope of one day returning.

A Refugee Settlement Rises Again in Northern Uganda

Matiop's First Days as a Refugee in Uganda

After fighting engulfed his hometown of Bor in South Sudan last December, Matiop Atem Angang fled with his extended family of 15 - including his 95-year-old mother, his six children and his sister's family. They left the capital of Jonglei state, one of the areas worst affected by the violence of the last two months. A one-week journey by boat and truck brought them to safety in neighbouring Uganda.

At the border, Matiop's large family was taken to a UNHCR-run transit centre, Dzaipi, in the northern district of Adjumani. But with thousands of South Sudanese refugees arriving every day, the facility quickly became overcrowded. By mid-February, the UN refugee agency had managed to transfer refugees to their own plots of land where they will be able to live until it is safe for them to go home. Uganda is one of very few countries that allow refugees to live like local citizens. These photos follow Matiop through the process of registering as a refugee in Uganda - an experience he shares with some 70,000 of his compatriots.

Matiop's First Days as a Refugee in Uganda

Uganda: Unique Approach For South SudanesePlay video

Uganda: Unique Approach For South Sudanese

Uganda has taken in thousands of South Sudanese refugees fleeing conflict. The government is helping the new arrivals by giving them land on which to build a shelter.
Our Sister, Our Mother - 2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award Laureate
Play video

Our Sister, Our Mother - 2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award Laureate

The 2013 winner of UNHCR`s Nansen Refugee Award is Sister Angelique Namaika, who works in the remote north east region of Democratic Republic of the Congo with survivors of displacement and abuse by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). She has helped over 2000 displaced women and girls who have suffered the most awful kidnapping and abuse, to pick up the pieces of their lives and become re-accepted by their communities.
Uganda: New Camp, New ArrivalsPlay video

Uganda: New Camp, New Arrivals

Recent fighting in eastern Congo has seen thousands of civilians flee to a new camp, Bubukwanga, in neighboring Uganda.