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Author Topic: BURUNDI: Police stop DRC refugees from trekking home  (Read 1309 times)

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GIHINGA, 6 October 2009 (IRIN) - Police in Burundi have forcibly prevented a group of refugees from leaving a camp because they intended to trek home to Democratic Republic of Congo, according to residents.

"The police fired and we all ran away. Two have been injured; three others lost consciousness because of fear. They have been taken to Kibumbu hospital for care," one refugee told IRIN on 6 October.

A leader of the refugees, Freddy Gakunzi, said police had sealed off the camp early in the morning to prevent about 2,000 refugees in the camp in Gihinga, who have refused to be relocated to another camp in Burundi, from making good their pledge to return to eastern DRC, despite major military operations there.

The camp was officially closed on 30 September.

In the morning, the Mwaro local administration ordered people to dismantle the camp, removing plastic shelters. Some refugees were still there with their mattresses, kitchen utensils, bags and jerry cans and other belongings.

Felix Shikiro said he would stay with friends locally while waiting for a promised lift back to DRC.

Some refugees say they were beaten and brutalized. Some women bore the marks of beatings on their hands. One woman with a child on her back was seen handcuffed and forced to board a police van.

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, has advised against a return to DRC at this stage.

"The conditions which forced the refugees into exile in June 2004 … still essentially prevail," UNHCR said in a statement on 5 October.

"It would be irresponsible to allow refugees to expose themselves to almost certain risk through the decision to return," said Clementine Nkweta-Salami, UNHCR representative to Burundi, in the statement.

Speaking on local radio, Burundi first deputy president, Yves Sahinguvu, said: "No one can prevent a refugee from repatriating but they should make sure they are briefed on the situation prevailing in their country of origin so they do not take risks."


Source http://www.irinnews.org
 

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