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Burundi: UNHCR to close two border sites

Briefing notes

Burundi: UNHCR to close two border sites

21 February 2003

UNHCR is set to close two temporary border sites that were established in western Burundi last October to shelter more than 10,000 Congolese refugees who fled a flare-up in fighting between two rebel movements in DRC's south Kivu region. The closure of these sites over the next weeks follows the completion of an operation to transfer all Congolese refugees from the border sites to Cishemeye - a safer inland camp in Burundi. The new camp, which now has some 5,746 Congolese refugees transferred from the two border sites, is in the north-western province of Cibitoke, some 40 km from the Burundi/DRC border.

At Rugombo, one of the two sites slated for closure, we have dismantled all but two hangars that had been put up to shelter up to 6,000 refugees at the peak of the influx of Congolese refugees last November. The last two hangars will be taken down and the site closed after the transfer of some 140 people who were not registered with us as refugees and whose records are now being verified before possible transfer to Cishemeye. The second site to be closed is Gatumba. We have transferred all the Congolese refugees there to the new camp. This site will be closed as soon as nearly 600 Burundian returnees who came back from south Kivu following the conflict in October are reintegrated in their home districts. We are talking with government authorities about their reintegration.

Meanwhile, we continue to see some spontaneous returns to the south Kivu region. In the last few weeks, nearly 500 Congolese have returned to the Uvira area, which is relatively calm.