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Burundi: some DRC border refugees to be moved tomorrow

Briefing notes

Burundi: some DRC border refugees to be moved tomorrow

24 August 2004

Some of the Congolese refugees in Burundi near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are scheduled to move tomorrow in a convoy from the two refugee transit centres in Cibitoke province, Rugombo and Karurama.

A convoy will take those ready to move to a camp in Gasorwe, in the north-east of Burundi. Already, 212 people have relocated there from the three border area transit centres in Cibitoke and Gatumba. The Gatumba transit centre was the scene of a bloody attack on 13 August, resulting in the deaths of up to 160 people and the wounding of more than 100 others.

Gasorwe already hosts 8,000 Congolese refugees from an earlier flight and the camp can accommodate up to 1,200 more people.

In the meantime, planning has started on the huge logistical and construction task to ready the newly-allocated sites at Gisozi in Mwaro province and Giharo in Rutana province for the nearly 20,000 refugees in the border area. We and our partners are organizing shelter, food, water, health, sanitation and other services at the sites. UNHCR will also help to transport the equivalent of a small town across mountainous terrain.

Additionally, we are beginning an information programme on the relocation for the benefit of refugees at the three transit centres. Many of the refugees remain reluctant to relocate - even more so among the refugees at the Gatumba transit centre, who suffered the terrible ordeal two Fridays ago. Some remain understandably and deeply affected by the horrific ordeal, and others are anxious about security at the new sites. Many families have relatives in hospital and want to remain close to their loved ones.

On Sunday, the Netherlands Development Cooperation Minister, Agnes van Ardenne, and the EU Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region, M. Aldo Ajello, visited Gatumba with the UNHCR Representative in Burundi, Mr. Kaba-Guichard Neyaga, and UNHCR staff after meetings with the Burundian government. The delegation visited the scene of the atrocity; the schools next to a military base where the survivors are temporarily relocated, and the mass grave where the dead were interred last Monday. Mrs. Ardenne laid a wreath at the graveside, and the delegation observed a minute's silence. She strongly condemned the attack on behalf of the Netherlands government and the European Community, and expressed her sympathy and condolences to some of the survivors.

In July, a UNHCR verification process counted 19,429 newly-arrived refugees in Burundi. At Cibitoke, there 17,662 refugees: 10,780 at Rugombo and 6,882 at Karurama. At Gatumba transit centre, 1,767 refugees were counted. They fled to the area in early June after fighting broke out in the eastern Congo.