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



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.

Congolese Medics on Call For Refugees

Jean de Dieu, from the Central African Republic (CAR), was on his way to market in mid-January when he was shot. The 24-year-old shepherd and his family had fled their country two months earlier and sought refuge on an island in the Oubangui River belonging to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Sometimes Jean crossed back to check on his livestock, but last week his luck ran out when he went to take an animal to market. A few hours later, in an improvised operating room in Dula, a Congolese border town on the banks of the Oubangui, medics fight to save his life.

Jean's situation is not unique. Over the past two years, war in the Central African Republic has driven more than 850,000 people from their homes. Many have been attacked as they fled, or killed if they tried to return. In neighbouring DRC, medical resources are being stretched to their limits.

Photographer Brian Sokol, on assignment for UNHCR, captured the moment when Jean and others were rushed into the operating theatre. His images bear witness to desperation, grief, family unity and, ultimately, a struggle for survival.

Congolese Medics on Call For Refugees

Human Misery in Katanga Province's Triangle of Death

People in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Katanga province have long referred to the region between the towns of Manono, Mitwaba and Pweto as the "triangle of death." Despite the presence of UN peace-keepers and government military successes in other parts of the country, the situation in the resources-rich Katanga has been getting worse over the past two years. Conflict between a secessionist militia group and the government and between the Luba (Bantu) and Twa (Pygmy) ethnic groups has left thousands dead and forcibly displaced more than 400,000 people since 2012, including over 70,000 in the last three months. UNHCR has expressed its "deep concern" about the "catastrophic" humanitarian situation in northern Katanga. The violence includes widescale looting and burning of entire villages and human rights' violations such as murder, mass rape and other sexual violence, and the forced military recruitment of children.

The limited presence of humanitarian and development organizations is a serious problem, leading to insufficient assistance to displaced people who struggle to have access to basic services. There are 28 sites hosting the displaced in northern Katanga and many more displaced people live in host communities. While UNHCR has built some 1,500 emergency shelters since January, more is needed, including access to health care, potable water, food and education. The following striking photographs by Brian Sokol for UNHCR show some of the despair and suffering.

Human Misery in Katanga Province's Triangle of Death

Statelessness Around the World

At least 10 million people in the world today are stateless. They are told that they don't belong anywhere. They are denied a nationality. And without one, they are denied their basic rights. From the moment they are born they are deprived of not only citizenship but, in many cases, even documentation of their birth. Many struggle throughout their lives with limited or no access to education, health care, employment, freedom of movement or sense of security. Many are unable to marry, while some people choose not to have children just to avoid passing on the stigma of statelessness. Even at the end of their lives, many stateless people are denied the dignity of a death certificate and proper burial.

The human impact of statelessness is tremendous. Generations and entire communities can be affected. But, with political will, statelessness is relatively easy to resolve. Thanks to government action, more than 4 million stateless people acquired a nationality between 2003 and 2013 or had their nationality confirmed. Between 2004 and 2014, twelve countries took steps to remove gender discrimination from their nationality laws - action that is vital to ensuring children are not left stateless if their fathers are stateless or unable to confer their nationality. Between 2011 and 2014, there were 42 accessions to the two statelessness conventions - indication of a growing consensus on the need to tackle statelessness. UNHCR's 10-year Campaign to End Statelessness seeks to give impetus to this. The campaign calls on states to take 10 actions that would bring a definitive end to this problem and the suffering it causes.

These images are available for use only to illustrate articles related to UNHCR statelessness campaign. They are not available for archiving, resale, redistribution, syndication or third party licensing, but only for one-time print/online usage. All images must be properly credited UNHCR/photographer's name

Statelessness Around the World

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