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Burundi: Influx from DRC continuing

Briefing notes

Burundi: Influx from DRC continuing

29 June 2004

The situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) remains tense, with refugees continuing to flee to Burundi. Yesterday (Monday), a group of 238 Congolese refugees crossed into Burundi, reportedly fleeing renewed fighting in eastern DRC. This was the first sizeable group of refugees to arrive in the past week, although smaller numbers came over the weekend and late last week. The new arrivals were registered by UNHCR at the border and then taken to the three transit centres in the border region. Our working estimate for the number of Congolese who have arrived in Burundi since June 9 stands at 34,000.

A six-member UNHCR emergency team arrived in Burundi over the weekend to reinforce our existing staff. They joined a site planner and medical coordinator who arrived last week. The team is heading to the border zone to meet the refugees at the transit sites and begin work on improving conditions, including starting up a school and recreational activities for children.

On Sunday, 377 primary school children were taken from the transit centres to the capital of Bujumbura to sit their end-of-year school exams. This helped them avoid losing school year credits because they were forced to flee their homes. A second exam session for more than 200 secondary school students is planned in the coming days.

Today, UNHCR and its partners are completing the distribution of food and relief items such as blankets, jerry cans and soap at all three transit sites - Cibitoke, Rugombo and Gatumba.

The team of UNHCR, WFP [World Food Programme] staff and Burundian authorities which late last week visited proposed camp sites in Cankuzo province in eastern Burundi, will today visit a third site in Rutana. They will conclude their site evaluation shortly.

Meanwhile, in Rwanda, 78 Congolese who fled in late May and early June returned to DRC yesterday, bringing the total number of returnees assisted by UNHCR to 472. Approximately 3,500 Congolese refugees from the recent crisis remain in Rwanda - 1,320 at the Nyagatare Transit Centre and some 2,200 who are staying with friends and family in Cyangugu.