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As new refugees flee DRC, existing ones move inland

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NAIROBI, 4 May 2005 (IRIN) - New refugees have been fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Rwanda since April causing crowding in Rwandan border centres, according the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which has begun transferring the existing refugees to a camp farther inland.

"Over 900 refugees have arrived [from DRC] in recent weeks, due to fighting, looting and pillaging in their new homes and more are still coming at an average rate of 50 per day," Jennifer Pagonis, the UNHCR spokeswoman said on Tuesday at a briefing for the media in Geneva..

Since Friday UNHCR has moved 567 of the exiting 7,500 refugees at the border centres in the Rwandan provinces of Gisenyi and Cyangugu. The refugees have been there since fleeing eastern DRC in 2004.

"We are transferring them to Nyabiheke Camp, in [northeastern] Byumba Province, an eight-hour drive from the border," she said.

The reason was security, she said, "as well as to free up capacity in the transit centers for new arrivals and for returning Rwandan refugees".

By 18 May, she said, UNHCR hoped to have transferred 4,000 of the refugees to Nyabiheke. The agency will also expand the capacity of the camp so that more of the refugees at the border can be moved there.

The border transit cantres are needed for Rwandan refugees returning from DRC "more than 2,000 of whom have come back since the beginning of the year", she said.

Tens of thousands Hutu from the former Rwandan army fled into eastern Congo following the 1994 genocide. In March 2005, the leader of the rebel Hutu-dominated Forces démocratique pour la libération du Rwanda (FDLR), Ignace Murwanashyaka, announced that he was abandoning armed conflict against the Rwandan government and that his combatants would return to Rwanda.

Following Murwanashyaka's statement, Rwandan Foreign Affairs Minister Charles Murigande told the DRC's Radio Opaki, "We are already prepared for their return. Transit camps will be set up and we will organise for their transportation."


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