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UNHCR prepares for influx as hundreds flee Bukavu for Rwanda


UNHCR prepares for influx as hundreds flee Bukavu for Rwanda

More than 2,000 Congolese have fled fighting in eastern DR Congo for neighbouring Rwanda. UNHCR has rushed relief supplies to the border area, and is working to expand a nearby transit centre should more refugees arrive.
2 June 2004
Rwandan returnees at Nyagatare transit centre, which is now hosting hundreds of Congolese refugees from Bukavu.

CYANGUGU, Rwanda, June 2 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency is continuing to help people fleeing to Rwanda from the Bukavu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is closely following the situation after a renewed outbreak of fighting in the town early this morning. Fifty more people crossed the border into Rwanda this morning, joining some 2,000 who had fled late last week.

Fighting broke out in Bukavu last Wednesday, causing some 2,000 Congolese to flee to Cyangugu in south-western Rwanda over the course of Thursday and Friday, according to Rwandan authorities. The clashes died down by Saturday and no new arrivals were reported in Rwanda over the past four days until this morning.

UNHCR dispatched additional staff to Cyangugu last Friday to bolster its existing presence in the area, and a second team arrived yesterday.

Just over 1,900 of those who have crossed the border have so far come forward to register for assistance. Some of those who fled have found shelter with friends and family, but some 950 are staying in UNHCR's Nyagatare transit centre in Cyangugu. The new arrivals have received food, blankets and other relief items.

The refugee agency has sent additional relief supplies including blankets and jerry cans to boost existing stocks at the Nyagatare transit centre. The reinforcements arrived in the border area on Saturday. The agency is also in contact with the World Food Programme to arrange for emergency food rations.

Currently, UNHCR is looking into expanding the capacity of its existing transit centre. In a first phase, the transit centre would be expanded to accommodate up to 2,000 people, but it could be expanded further if more space is required.

"The local response has been very positive so far, both on the part of the local authorities and from non-governmental organisations, who have offered to help and have been providing some of the emergency relief being distributed at the border," said UNHCR's Representative in Rwanda, Kalunga Lutato. "We are watching the situation closely as it develops to be able to respond quickly if more people cross the border."