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UNHCR calls on DRC to protect refugees after tragic killings

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UNHCR calls on DRC to protect refugees after tragic killings

19 September 2017

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is urging the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to ensure protection for refugees and asylum-seekers after a shocking shooting incident in Kamanyola on September 15 in which at least 39 people were killed and another 94 injured.

The incident took place after Congolese soldiers fired live rounds at Burundian protestors in the eastern part of the country, many of whom UNHCR believes were refugees and asylum-seekers. The protest, reported to be initially peaceful, allegedly started after a small group of Burundians were detained by Congolese authorities, creating fears they were going to be deported to Burundi.

The dead included Burundian men, women and one child. The incident also resulted in the death of one Congolese soldier, with six others wounded.  

“This is a devastating tragedy. It should never have happened,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. He welcomed the announcement from Congolese officials to launch an inquiry into the incident and called for it to be detailed. “We need to establish facts and determine responsibility and make sure that such an incident never happens again.”

UNHCR immediately deployed a team to the area on Saturday where it is working with the medical staff of a partner organization in the local hospital to provide life-saving medical assistance to the injured.

So far, some 57 people with critical injuries were evacuated to Goma and the nearest city of Bukavu, while another 37 are being treated in Kamanyola.

The UNHCR team on the ground reports a tense situation with over 2,400 Burundians seeking protection next to the small MONUSCO (the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo) base in Kamanyola. They are too afraid to go back to the locations where they have been staying. Some refugees have expressed the wish to move elsewhere in Congo. UNHCR is working with local authorities to find a suitable location.

DRC hosts more than 43,700 refugees who have arrived from Burundi since 2015.

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