Burundi UN agency relocates Congolese refugees from volatile border area

The United Nations refugee agency has begun relocating some of the 20,000 Congolese currently crammed in three transit centres along Burundi’s volatile border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) after fleeing fighting in the South Kivu region in June. A spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the agency will relocate the bulk of the new arrivals to “a better and safer location away from the DRC border once we have agreed with the Burundi Government on a suitable site.” On Tuesday, 139 Congolese were transported from the transit centres to Gasorwe camp in Muyinga province in northeast Burundi, which already hosts some 8,000 refugees who fled the DRC in previous years. Some refugees have returned home since the initial influx and in recent weeks, new arrivals from the DRC have slowed to a trickle, but Ms. Pagonis said UNHCR was not promoting organized repatriation because “we do not consider the situation conducive for return or that such a return is sustainable now.” The agency is urging the Burundian Government to keep the border open so that refugees can return if they want to and allow Congolese to seek refuge in Burundi if they feel the need for it. Over the past few weeks, border crossings have been subject to intermittent closures for security reasons.

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