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ACT Alliance Alert: Influx of DRC Refugees in Burundi

News and Press Release
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In the evening of Wednesday the 24 January 2018, refugees fleeing fighting in South Kivu started streaming in Makamba and Rumonge Provinces aboard boats. Since August 2017, the security and humanitarian situation has significantly deteriorated in South Kivu, more specifically on the axis Sebele ‐Kikonde‐Kazimia, the southern coast of Kazimia (Yungu, Talama) and the coastal communities of Ubwari in the Fizi area. On-going clashes between the army FARDC (Democratic Republic of Congo Armed Forces) and the Mai Mai Yakutumba rebel armed group - claiming itself from the National People's Coalition for the Sovereignty of Congo (CNSPC) - are behind this deterioration of the situation since January. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), is alarmed by a recent surge in violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which is driving large numbers of Congolese to flee eastwards to neighbouring Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda.
Thousands of children, women and men have abandoned their homes, in the midst of intensified military operations against Mai Mai armed groups in South Kivu province. Since last week almost 7,000 people have crossed to neighbouring Burundi and an additional 1,200 to Tanzania. It is believed that many more are displaced inside South Kivu in difficult conditions without shelter or food.

Refugees we have spoken to say they fled forced recruitment, direct violence and other abuses by armed groups. Others say they fled in anticipation of military operations and out of fear. It is imperative that people fleeing the violence are allowed safe passage, and that humanitarian access to the internally displaced is facilitated.

Those refugees seeking to reach Burundi are mainly doing so by crossing Lake Tanganyika on small fishing boats. At the date of the 28th of January, according to the Burundian authorities, 8,152 persons have crossed the Lake to the Burundian provinces of Rumonge and Makamba, including 6,934 Congolese and 1,218 returning Burundians. On the 29 January, 2018, 823 additional persons arrived on the coats of Burundi. It is therefore estimated that a total of 9,078 people crossed to Burundi so far. The most probable scenario of the humanitarian community (confirmed by UNHCR) is a total number of 15,000 Congolese refugees and 2,000 Burundians fleeing DRC. The worst-case scenario might increase up to 50,000 to 60,000.