Congolese refugees waiting on DRC-Burundi border
BUJUMBURA, Burundi, Oct 8 (UNHCR) - Some 1,300 Congolese refugees are stuck in the border area of Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), waiting for permission to return home despite advice against doing so.
"UNHCR has repeatedly told the refugees that we do not advise them to go home because of the uncertain security situation," said the agency's spokeswoman, Jennifer Pagonis, at a news briefing in Geneva on Friday.
Congolese troops have also told the refugees to turn back to Burundi until the DRC is ready to receive them upon making preparations for their safety.
Two weeks ago, riots broke out in the eastern Congolese town of Uvira when people protested the return of 365 Congolese refugees from Burundi. The returnees had to be sheltered temporarily outside Uvira under the protection of the UN peacekeeping mission in the country. They have since left the transit centre.
The UN refugee agency has sent staff to the border area to monitor the refugees' situation. UNHCR has called on the national authorities and the UN missions in Burundi and the DRC to reinforce security in the area.
The group currently waiting at the border is part of some 20,000 Congolese nationals who arrived in Burundi after fleeing fighting in eastern DRC in June. Many of them lived in three transit centres in Burundi's border area, one of which - Gatumba - was attacked in August, killing more than 150 refugees. UNHCR has relocated more than 1,300 from the insecure border to Gihinga camp in Burundi's Mwaro province since the camp opened on September 23.
Meanwhile, further north in neighbouring Rwanda, nearly 1,000 Congolese refugees have arrived after leaving Burundi in recent days. They have been joined by several hundred Burundian nationals of Tutsi origin.
"The refugees say they fear ethnic violence in the run-up to the general election in Burundi, which under the terms of the country's peace accord is supposed to take place before the end of this month, although no date has yet been announced," reported Pagonis.