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Un Transfers Congolese Refugees To New Sites

Un Transfers Refugees To New Sites Along Congested Rwanda-DR of Congo Border

New York, May 3 2005 11:00AM

The United Nations refugee agency has begun transferring thousands of Congolese encamped along the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Rwanda for safety reasons and to free up space for new arrivals in the transit centres.

More than 900 Congolese refugees from North Kivu have arrived in recent weeks, and still more are coming at an average rate of 50 per day, making the transfer initiative even more pressing, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Jennifer Pagonis, said in Geneva today. The new arrivals say they left because of fighting, looting and pillaging in their home areas.

Some 7,500 Congolese refugees have been staying at transit centres in Gisenyi and Cyangugu provinces which were originally set up for Rwandan refugees returning home from the DRC. “We are transferring them to Nyabiheke camp, in Byumba province, an eight-hour journey by road from the border, for reasons of security, as well as to free up capacity in the transit centres for new arrivals and for returning Rwandan refugees,” Ms. Pagonis said.

The first convoy last Friday brought 155 Congolese to the new site. Another 412 refugees moved yesterday to Nyabiheke, and convoys will continue three times a week. The transfers are taking place on trucks provided by UNHCR. The refugees also receive food for the journey from the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

The agency hopes to transfer up to 4,000 Congolese refugees in the first phase through 18 May, with more to follow as the Nyabiheke site is expanded. The transit centres are also needed for the return of Rwandan refugees from the DRC, more than 2,000 of whom have come back since the beginning of the year.

ENDS

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