Clashes in Rwanda camp lead to tragic refugee death
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is reiterating its call on the Rwandan authorities and Congolese refugees in Rwanda for restraint and calm, after recent clashes left one refugee dead and others injured at the Kiziba refugee camp in western Rwanda.
The full circumstances surrounding this incident are still unclear, but we understand that the death of the refugee followed a stand-off between the Rwandan National Police and a crowd of refugee youths on Tuesday. The individual was injured. He was taken to a district hospital in Kibuye, but succumbed to his injuries late the same day.
We deplore this tragedy and have shared our sympathies with the family. We urge police and refugees to avoid any further confrontation, and peacefully resolve issues.
Over 17,000 Congolese refugees live in the camp. Many have been there for more than two decades, while a significant number were born there. Faced with dwindling assistance levels and food ration reductions as humanitarian funding levels have remained chronically low, residents began protests in February.
A previous clash on February 22 led to over 10 refugee deaths, left many others injured including members of the police.
The Rwandan National Police had beefed up their presence in Kiziba with more personnel arriving there on April 20. This week’s confrontation reportedly began on Monday (April 29) when police used tear gas after being blocked by refugee youths. A 12 year old refugee boy was injured and is currently recovering in hospital. Another 23 refugees are reported to have been arrested, apparently for provoking Rwandan Police patrols.
With the situation still tense, some refugees have indicated that they want to return to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) out of desperation. UNHCR is urging them to make a properly informed decision and not one based on misinformation or rumours.
The continued confrontation has also hindered humanitarian access to Kiziba camp. UNHCR and its partners are struggling to provide support and assistance to the refugees.
With our continued efforts to peacefully resolve the current situation, UNHCR is also advocating with donors to address the gaps in humanitarian funding and urgent needs of refugees. UNHCR’s 2018 funding appeal for US$98.8 million to support refugees in Rwanda is only is 13 per cent funded.
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