Burundi: Thousands of Rwandan refugees living in precarious conditions – UN

3 June 2005

With some 5,400 Rwandans crowded into a Burundian transit centre built for only 800 people, the United Nations refugee agency today said it would take another two or three weeks to add enough sheds and sanitary facilities to house them all.

The situation resulted from a decision last week by the Rwandan and Burundian authorities to group all the asylum-seekers at the one site, Songore transit centre, saying the move would make it easier to safeguard them and conduct information campaigns to try to persuade them to return home, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.

To that end, the Burundian authorities ordered the destruction of border sites and the closure of another transit centre, leaving the refugees to walk as many as 50 kilometres to Songore.

According to UNHCR, eight sheds, providing crowded shelter for 1,000 people, have already been built, but it will need at least another two weeks to build enough shelters and latrines to accommodate all the asylum-seekers.

Meanwhile, 2,800 plastic sheets have been distributed to cover the temporary shelters of leaves and branches the refugees have built.

About 8,000 Rwandans have so far fled to Burundi, citing fear of the “gacaca” local tribunals looking into the 1994 genocide, but also escaping from intimidation and threats of revenge, UNHCR said.


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