High Commissioner wraps up visit to Great Lakes region, welcomes European Commission contribution

Briefing Notes, 3 March 2006

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 3 March 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

High Commissioner António Guterres is wrapping up his week-long mission to the Great Lakes region today in Tanzania after talks with senior government officials.

During a field visit to Kibondo district in north-western Tanzania yesterday (Thursday), Mr Guterres saw for himself the squalid living conditions new arrivals from Burundi are experiencing in overcrowded transit centres. Over the last few weeks, a growing number of Burundians have been crossing the border to seek refuge in Tanzania citing lack of food and growing insecurity as the reasons for their flight. Earlier this week, the High Commissioner, as part of his joint mission with the heads the World Food Programme and UNICEF to the Great Lakes region, was in Rwanda and Burundi.

Mr. Guterres will hold a briefing at the Palais des Nations, Salle III, on Monday, March 6, at 1600 hours about his mission to this region, which requires a lot more international attention. And in that connection, the European Commission's Humanitarian aid office, ECHO, yesterday announced a most welcome 1.5 million euro contribution to UNHCR for our work with refugees in Burundi. Some 30,000 Congolese refugees and 20,000 Rwandan asylum seekers are currently in Burundi.