The United Nations refugee agency today said it is assisting refugees that have fled to Burundi from the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s South Kivu province after ongoing deadly clashes along the border between the two countries over the past two weeks.
In a news briefing in Geneva, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that over the past 12 days some 1,500 people – about 60 per cent of them children – have fled from the Sange, Mutalule, and Rwanena areas of the Ruzizi Plain in South Kivu into Burundi.
UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said the asylum seekers were being temporarily hosted at the Cishemere Transit Centre, in Burundi’s western province of Cibitoke.
“Many who were hosted by Burundian families in the commune of Buganda had been moved to the transit centre where they could be better assisted,” Mr. Edwards said, adding that so far UNHCR has transferred 174 people to the Kavumu camp in the eastern province of Cankuzo, and some 341 others were on their way there.
Mr. Edwards said UNHCR was deeply concerned over the impact of attacks on civilians, particularly indiscriminate attacks in the eastern part of the country.
Last weekend, fighting between the Congolese Army (FARDC) and the M23 rebel group around Goma, the capital of North Kivu, killed and wounded a number of civilians.
At least three people were killed and five others wounded on Saturday morning when a shell landed in Ndosho, a suburb of Goma. On the same day, another shell fell near the Mugunga 3 camp, home to more than 10,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs). Two days before, numerous shells landed in residential areas of Goma, killing at least four people and wounding 15 – all civilians.
UNHCR reminded all parties to the conflict that indiscriminate or deliberate attacks against civilians are war crimes, and called for all parties to stop targeting them.