UNHCR to verify reports of Congolese arrivals in Burundi
BUJUMBURA, Burundi, June 10 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency has dispatched a mission to the border of Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to look into reports that thousands of new refugees have arrived in Burundi since yesterday after fleeing fighting in the Uvira region of the DRC.
According to reports from local authorities in Gatumba, Rugombo and Cibitoke, there could be several thousands of new refugees in these three areas since Wednesday. The UNHCR team will assist in verifying the number of new arrivals and determine what assistance the refugees will need.
Initial feedback from the team on the ground indicates that at Gatumba alone there are more than 1,000 new refugees, most of them children. More are still arriving.
Gatumba is located on the Burundi-DRC border at the northern tip of Lake Tanganyika. Rugombo and Cibitoke are on the border further to the north. The four-person team is expected to return to the Burundian capital, Bujumbura, on Thursday night.
The UNHCR office in Burundi is working on updating its contingency plans in light of the reported new arrivals to make sure that sufficient aid supplies are available.
Meanwhile, further to the north in neighbouring Rwanda, no new Congolese refugee arrivals have been reported for the past two days. One group of 235 Congolese crossed the border into Cyangugu, Rwanda on Tuesday afternoon, following a three-day stretch with no outflow reported from DRC. Rwanda closed its border with DRC on Sunday, but has assured UNHCR that refugees will still be allowed to cross.
The refugee agency is in contact with the Rwandan authorities and is asking them to make sure that any military personnel among those arriving from the DRC are separated from civilians.
In all, nearly 2,700 refugees have been registered for assistance in Rwanda since the outbreak of fighting in Bukavu on May 26, with most arriving within the first few days. Of these, 1,191 are staying at UNHCR's Nyagatare transit centre, while the rest are being sheltered by family or friends in the area.
UNHCR's partner, the American Refugee Committee (ARC), has started work to expand the transit centre to accommodate 1,000 more people, levelling plots for additional tents, digging new latrines, and investigating options for increased water supply in the area. As of Thursday, a health facility staffed by four nurses will be open round the clock at the transit centre. Sufficient aid supplies have been put in place at the centre, including food rations, high-energy biscuits, blankets, sheeting, kitchen sets, clothes, jerry cans, plastic mats and tents.