Second Burundi site agreed for Congolese refugees near insecure border
BUJUMBURA, Burundi, Aug 20 (UNHCR) - The Burundian government and the UN refugee agency today agreed on a second site to relocate the survivors of last week's massacre at a border transit centre, many of whom remain reluctant to move.
The agreement came at a meeting this morning between Burundi's President Domitien Ndayizeye and UNHCR's Deputy Director for Africa, Zobida Hassim-Ashagrie, on mission in Burundi. The relocation site is situated at Gizosi in Mwaro, south-east of the Burundian capital of Bujumbura. It is in addition to a site approved earlier at Giharo in the south-eastern province of Rutana.
UNHCR has completed plans to set up at Giharo, and is awaiting the Burundian government's final approval before starting work, hopefully by next week. Technical assessments will now need to be carried out on the new Gizosi site.
Last Friday's attack at Gatumba transit centre, located on the border of Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, killed 160 people. Some 100 survivors are still in hospital in Bujumbura.
The violence-hit centre is one of three transit centres near the Burundi-DRC border that host a total of 20,000 Congolese refugees who had fled fighting in the DRC's South Kivu region since June. UNHCR had repeatedly urged the Burundian government to provide a secure camp away from the high-risk border zone for these refugees, even though some of them had insisted on staying close to the border so they could check on their property back in the DRC.
"We are continuing to talk with the refugees to try to overcome some of the remaining reluctance to move to safer camps away from the border," said UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond at a news briefing in Geneva on Friday. He noted that even in the town of Gatumba, where the survivors of last week's massacre are now staying, there is still some reluctance among the refugees to the upcoming transfer.
"The refugees are seeking reassurance that they will be safe in the new location," he said, adding that the family members of those in hospital in Bujumbura do not wish to move until their loved ones are released.
Meanwhile, Congolese refugees at one of the other two transit centres at Rugombo have dispersed into the town, reportedly fearing a revenge attack. A small number of families have also crossed back to the DRC from Rugombo in recent days.
The border is officially closed and the security situation is reportedly still tense in the border area of Burundi, the DRC and Rwanda.