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Rwanda/DRC: transfer started to a new site

Briefing notes

Rwanda/DRC: transfer started to a new site

3 May 2005

UNHCR has started transferring to a new site away from the Rwanda-DRC border thousands of Congolese refugees who fled to Rwanda due to fighting in North Kivu in the second half of 2004. Some 7,500 Congolese refugees have been staying at transit centres in Gisenyi and Cyangugu provinces which were originally set up for Rwandan refugees returning home from the DRC. We are transferring them to Nyabiheke camp, in Byumba province, an 8-hour journey by road from the border, for reasons of security, as well as to free up capacity in the transit centres for new arrivals and for returning Rwandan refugees.

The transfer has become more pressing in light of the arrival of more Congolese refugees from North Kivu since the beginning of April. Over 900 refugees have arrived in recent weeks, and more are still coming at an average rate of 50 per day. The new arrivals say they left because of fighting, looting and pillaging in their home areas.

We hope to transfer up to 4,000 of the Congolese refugees in the first phase through May 18. More refugees will be transferred as the Nyabiheke site is expanded.

The first convoy on Friday (April 29) brought 155 Congolese to the new site. Another 412 refugees moved to Nyabiheke on Monday, and convoys will continue three times a week. The transfers are taking place on trucks provided by UNHCR. The refugees also receive food for the journey from WFP.

The transit centres are also needed for the return of Rwandan refugees from DRC, more than 2,000 of whom have come back since the beginning of the year.

Rwanda hosts some 50,000 refugees, of whom 6,000 originate from Burundi and the remaining 43,000 from DRC.