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UN agency transfers Congolese refugees to new camp

KIGALI, 29 Apr 2005 (IRIN) - The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, transferred on Friday 149 Congolese refugees from a transit centre near the Rwanda-Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border to a newly established refugee camp.

"The transfer of refugees to Nyabiheke Camp is essential in order to move them away from border areas to a camp with proper infrastructure," UNHCR said on Friday.

The refugees, who had been staying in a camp in Rwanda's northwestern province of Gisenyi, have been moved to Nyabiheke Camp - with a capacity for 4,000 inhabitants - in the northeastern province of Byumba.

UNHCR reported that it planned to move all vulnerable people from the transit centre in Gisenyi and in the southern province of Cyangugu within the next three weeks. Some 7,500 Congolese refugees have been living in these the two transit sites.

The agency also said the transfer of the refugees became necessary due to congestion at the Gisenyi and Cyangugu centres. Some 900 refugees arrived in Gisenyi from DRC's eastern province of North Kivu since 1 April.

Some of the refugees say they fled insecurity, fighting, looting and pillaging by Rwanda Hutu rebels in the DRC.

According to UNHCR, a daily average of 50 refugees continue to arrive from DRC.

"The opening of the new camp is a sign of generosity and respect of international principles by the government of Rwanda in a country where land is precious and scarce," Panos Moumtzis, the UNHCR country representative, was quoted as saying.

The German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) provided trucks to transport the refugees to Nyabiheke and the UN World Food Programme provided them with food during their journey.

An NGO, the American Refugee Committee, built the new site in Nyabiheke. The Rwandan government will manage the camp through the Ministry of Local Government and Social Welfare.

Some 50,000 refugees are now living in Rwanda, most of whom originate from Burundi and DRC.

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