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Burundi: Congolese continuing to flee

Briefing notes

Burundi: Congolese continuing to flee

2 July 2004

Congolese are continuing to flee unstable conditions in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with 848 refugees crossing into Burundi at Rugombo between Monday to Wednesday. This new influx pushes the total estimated refugee arrivals since June 9 to well over 34,000.

Yesterday, Thursday, no new arrivals were registered, as the borders were closed for Independence Day celebrations in the DRC and Burundi.

This week's arrivals were originally from Kamanyola in the DRC and had first fled into the mountains when the fighting erupted. When they tried to return home, they found their houses and crops looted by the rebels and the army. They also reported large numbers of soldiers at Kamanyola, some of whom had taken over their homes. However, the soldiers reportedly left the houses willingly, when the owners returned. Although fighting in Kamanyola had stopped, the situation remained tense and the Congolese fled to Burundi.

The new arrivals are temporarily housed in makeshift shelters at Rugombo transit centre near the border. In an attempt to contain an outbreak of cholera, we have delayed transferring the new arrivals to Kururama transit centre. Kururama is so far free of cholera. UNHCR teams have been dispatched to the border to direct any new arrivals straight to Kururama. No deaths have been reported this week and the outbreak appears to be under control.

There are also reports that some refugees may have crossed back to DRC. Earlier in the week 19 students crossed the border back to DRC, accompanied by their families who wanted to remain united with their children.

UNHCR has assessed the sites proposed by the Burundian government for refugee camps in the eastern provinces of Cankuzo and Rutana. Two of the five proposed sites are suitable. The first choice is Murombero site in Rutana province which could host some 70,000 refugees. Two nearby streams could be used for water and the road is in good condition. We will be discussing our findings with the government.

In the meantime, one additional UNHCR emergency staff member is expected to arrive in Burundi tomorrow, Saturday, to join the seven emergency staff already deployed to help our office in Burundi cope with this crisis.