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Burundi: agreement reached with government on second site for transit camp Congolese

Briefing notes

Burundi: agreement reached with government on second site for transit camp Congolese

20 August 2004

This morning, UNHCR reached agreement with the Burundi government on a second site inside Burundi to relocate the Congolese refugees now in transit centres along the Burundi-DRC border. The site, at Gizosi in the province of Muramvya, south-east of Bujumbura, is in addition to the site at Giharo, in the south-eastern province of Rutana, already agreed with the government.

Planning for work to set up the camps has been completed and we are ready to start preparing the camps as soon as the government gives the final green light, which is expected on Monday.

Meanwhile, we are continuing to talk with the refugees to try to overcome some of the remaining reluctance to move to safer camps away from the border. Even in the town of Gatumba, where the survivors of last Friday's massacre at the transit centre are now staying, there is still some reluctance among the refugees to the transfer. The refugees are seeking reassurance that they will be safe in the new location. In addition, some 100 survivors of the attack are still in hospital in Bujumbura and their family members do not wish to move until they are released.

At Rugombo, many of the refugees who had been staying in the transit centre there have now dispersed into the town, reportedly because they feared a revenge attack. In addition, a small number of families have crossed back to DRC from Rugombo in recent days.

The border is officially closed and the situation reportedly remains tense on all three sides of the border (Rwanda, Burundi and DRC).

Gatumba transit centre sheltered 860 Congolese before Friday's attack that left more than 150 dead. It is one of three transit camps near the DRC border hosting 20,000 Congolese who fled fighting in the DRC's South Kivu province in June. Since their arrival, we had been urging the Burundi government to provide a secure camp well away from the volatile Burundi-DRC border for these arrivals. The area is a high-risk zone and has been under phase four of the five-stage system of security alert in the UN.