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DRC: evacuation affects Rwanda returns, border closely monitored

Briefing notes

DRC: evacuation affects Rwanda returns, border closely monitored

8 June 2004

We are continuing to monitor closely the situation along the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)/Rwanda border, where over 2,300 Congolese refugees have fled since the outbreak of fighting in Bukavu, DRC on Wednesday, May 26.

Rwanda closed the border on Sunday, but the Rwandan authorities in Kigali have assured us that refugees will still be allowed to cross. No new arrivals have been reported since the border closure. There were also no arrivals on Saturday, and only 28 new refugees crossed the border on Friday.

In all, some 2,390 new Congolese refugees have registered with us for assistance in Cyangugu, Rwanda since May 26. More than 985 of them are being sheltered in UNHCR's transit centre. Others have found accommodation with friends and family in Rwanda.

Tomorrow (Wednesday), we are sending a senior emergency officer from Geneva to Rwanda to work with our office there to help make preparations in the case of any major arrivals of refugees from DRC. We are updated existing contingency plans and working to expand our transit centre in Cyangugu. We are also dispatching 10,000 sleeping mats to Rwanda from our stocks in Ngara, Tanzania.

Meanwhile, we remain concerned about the ongoing tensions within the DRC. Since the fighting began, we have been unable to continue our work to help Rwandan refugees in the area around Bukavu who wish to return home. More than 5,000 Rwandan refugees have returned to Rwanda so far this year on our convoys from Bukavu. Elsewhere in DRC, following the UN decision to move to a higher security alert, we have evacuated nonessential staff which has restricted our activities in the country.