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Refugees from DR of Congo, Burundi flooding into Tanzania, UN agency reports

Refugees from DR of Congo, Burundi flooding into Tanzania, UN agency reports

Another 500 people fleeing fighting in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have arrived in Tanzania, bringing to nearly 13,000 the number of Congolese who have sought asylum in neighbouring countries, the United Nations refugee agency said today.

The latest wave into Tanzania comes on top of a sudden large influx of Burundian refugees, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) said at a press briefing in Geneva. So far this month, more than 11,000 Burundian refugees have fled into Tanzania – 5,000 of them last week.

“The new arrivals are outstripping UNHCR’s reception capacity at a transit centre” in Mbuba, close to the border area, spokesman Ron Redmond said.

More Congolese might be headed for Tanzania following unconfirmed reports on Sunday that the Maï-Maï militia, who had held the town of Uvira for about one week, had withdrawn southwards, taking with them a significant number of civilians, the spokesman said. Refugees who arrived yesterday had been forced to flee southwards, along the shores of Lake Tanganyika, when Burundian border authorities denied them entry into Burundi.

Burundi had closed its borders on Saturday to an estimated 20,000 Congolese who fled an overnight counter-offensive against Uvira by the rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD-Goma), according to Mr. Redmond. The stranded Congolese, however, returned to their homes on Sunday following an appeal by RCD-Goma leader Adolphe Onusumba.

Mr. Redmond said a similar appeal, meanwhile, to Congolese refugees at two UNHCR sites in western Burundi to return home were ignored. The UN agency had registered more than 5,200 refugees at a temporary site at Gatumba, close to the Burundian capital of Bujumbura since Sunday, and was assisting 4,600 refugees at a site in Rugombo, Cibitoke Province, where 41 communal shelters were constructed for 3,000 people.