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Burundi: information programme for reluctant Congolese

Briefing notes

Burundi: information programme for reluctant Congolese

27 August 2004

UNHCR has moved a group of 48 Congolese refugees in Burundi away from the insecure border area between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi to Gasorwe camp in the north-east of the country, where some 8,000 Congolese refugees from an earlier influx are already sheltered.

Forty-seven of those in the convoy were from two transit centres in Cibitoke province - Rugombo and Karurama. One person came from the town of Gatumba. The Gatumba transit centre, now closed, was the scene of a bloody attack on 13 August resulting in the death of up to 160 people and the wounding of more than 100 others. Refugees from the centre are now sheltering in a school with increased security.

UNHCR teams visited two new camp sites at Gisozi in Mwaro province and Giharo in Rutana province this week, after receiving formal agreement from the Burundian government on Monday to ready the sites to receive refugees. We and our partners are organizing shelter, food, water, health, sanitation and other services at the two sites for some 20,000 refugees now in the border area.

Additionally, we are beginning an information programme on the relocation for the refugees, many of whom remain reluctant to relocate because they want to return to DRC as soon as they feel the situation is safe. This is especially the case among refugees at the Gatumba transit centre. Many are still deeply affected by the attack and others are anxious about security at the new sites. Many families also have relatives in hospital and want to stay close to their loved ones.

The UNHCR Representative and other UNHCR staff are meeting representatives from the Ministries of the Interior, Public Security, and National Defence to discuss the government's participation in the communications programme. We shall also be involving donors.

In July, a UNHCR verification process counted 19,429 newly-arrived refugees in Burundi. At Cibitoke 17,662 refugees: 10,780 at Rugombo and 6,882 at Karurama. At Gatumba transit centre, 1,767 refugees were counted. They fled to Burundi in early June this year after fighting broke out in the eastern Congo.