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UNHCR denounces refugee expulsions from DRC

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UNHCR denounces refugee expulsions from DRC

6 October 1997

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees today strongly denounced the expulsion of hundreds of Rwandan refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The DRC government has announced it has "repatriated" more than 4,000 Rwandans from its frontier in Goma. Most of them were reported to have fled the recent upsurge of violence in Rwanda. The government also said it was sealing off its border with Rwanda.

Over the weekend, Rwandan authorities told UNHCR staff in the border town of Gisenyi that DRC soldiers have trucked to the area 830 Rwandan refugees, including 753 women and children. Four of them were arrested on their return to Rwanda. These people have now been seen by UNHCR staff in Rwanda.

"The DRC government is a signatory to international conventions on refugees. Its actions against refugees in recent days constitute a violation of their commitments," said High Commissioner Sadako Ogata.

"We are particularly alarmed at the situation in the DRC. We were forced to suspend our operations for Rwandan refugees there after our efforts to help these people had been frustrated at every turn," Mrs. Ogata said. "This is just another stage in the deteriorating condition of refugees in the DRC."

Last Friday, the Minister of Interior of the DRC issued an order to the Governor of North Kivu instructing him to close the border between North Kivu and Rwanda; to "refoule," or expel, all Rwandan refugees in Goma to their country; and to cease the activities of agencies dealing with refugees, such as UNHCR in Goma.

Mrs. Ogata said that she was deeply concerned about the implications of this order for Rwandans in the DRC.

Preparations are being made today to begin flying out staff from UNHCR and other agencies from Goma to Nairobi, Kenya.