MONUC, Congolese troops move recent returnees home in Kivu region
UVIRA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Oct 15 (UNHCR) - The first of more than 1,600 Congolese refugees who recently returned from Burundi were transferred today to their home areas in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The group of over 1,600 Congolese nationals had crossed back from Burundi into the DRC earlier this week after waiting six days at the border for permission to re-enter their country. Upon their return, they were accommodated in a temporary transit centre near the eastern Congolese town of Uvira, where they received food and relief items under the protection of the UN Mission in Congo (MONUC).
The situation in Uvira is now quiet after protests last weekend against the return of the refugees.
Today, MONUC and Congolese government troops escorted the returnees in small groups from the transit centre to their areas of origin, which include Uvira, Baraka, Minembwe and the Ruzizi plain. Those who live nearby walked home under military protection, while others were transported in trucks. MONUC helicopters were on standby for returnees who originate from very remote locations.
"UNHCR's position remains that the South Kivu region of eastern DRC is still volatile, and conditions for return are still very difficult," said the refugee agency's spokeswoman, Jennifer Pagonis, at a news briefing in Geneva Friday. "We have advised the refugees to consider these constraints."
She reiterated UNHCR's concerns that the information provided by some of the authorities and other groups "may not be in the best interest of the refugees."
However, given the large numbers who have decided to return, the refugee agency is setting up an office in Uvira to monitor the returnees' situation and to put assistance in place.
Only a few thousand of the 20,000 Congolese who fled the fighting in the DRC's Kivu region in June are still in Burundi. Some 1,325 are in the new camp of Gihinga in Mwaro province, where another convoy of 300 refugees is scheduled to arrive next week. At least 1,200 others have left for Rwanda.