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Burundi: returning UNHCR team reports 2,800 recent DRC arrivals

Briefing notes

Burundi: returning UNHCR team reports 2,800 recent DRC arrivals

11 June 2004

A UNHCR team, which returned from the Burundi-DRC [the Democratic Republic of the Congo] border last night, reports that more than 2,800 Congolese refugees have arrived in recent days in Burundi. Together with other UN agencies and NGOs on the ground, we are now starting an initial emergency distribution of relief items and WFP food for the new arrivals which will be enough to last them for ten days.

Since Wednesday, 1,652 Congolese have arrived in Burundi at Gatumba situated at the northern tip of Lake Tanganyika. Most of them are women and children from the Congolese town of Uvira. They reportedly fled in panic after learning about the fighting that occurred earlier in Bukavu. They are reportedly in good health and are temporarily staying in a structure that was previously used for refugees who arrived in 2002, and have since been transferred away from the border to Gasorwe refugee camp.

In Cibitoke province, to the north, three groups of refugees have crossed the border. Some 60 people are staying at Rugombo Communal centre. They fled from the towns of Ngueshi, Walungu, Kamanyola, Luvunge and Katogote after hearing gun shots in the distance. Three kilometres away, there is another group of 100 people. They are mainly students who were leaving school when they saw their family members and neighbours fleeing and joined them.

The third group of 1,040 refugees are staying in Cibitoke city centre. They come from Bwegera in DRC, and to reach Burundi, they had to cross the Ruzizi river, sometimes floating on plastic jerry cans.

Following yesterday's UNHCR, OCHA, WFP and ECHO interagency mission to the border, we have chaired a meeting in Bujumbura to bring together humanitarian agencies and government officials to work out a response to the new arrivals, including the current aid distribution getting underway. We are closely monitoring developments in the DRC to be ready to help if any more refugee arrivals are reported.