This is a summary of what was said by the UNHCR spokesperson at today’s Palais des Nations press briefing in Geneva. Further information can be found on the UNHCR websites, www.unhcr.org and www.unhcr.fr, which should also be checked for regular media updates on non-briefing days.
UNHCR is alarmed by recent reports that internally displaced people have been tortured and killed by armed elements in the IDP camps of North Kivu province in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Since the last quarter of 2011, armed groups have been intruding on IDP camps in North Kivu, violating their civilian character. The main affected camps are in Nyanzale, Mweso and Birambizo in the Masisi territory, about 90 km north-west of the provincial capital Goma.
Displaced Congolese are constantly threatened by various groups and militias who accuse them of collaborating with one armed group or another. On 13 December last year, seven IDPs were beaten to death because they had refused to take part in forced labour imposed by the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR). UNHCR has also received reports of IDPs being tortured.
Ongoing violence is also hindering humanitarian access to the camps and preventing aid workers from protecting and assisting the displaced people. Only 8 IDP camps out of 31 are accessible to humanitarian workers without military escort.
UNHCR calls on all parties to respect the civilian character of IDP sites in North Kivu. We are appealing to provincial authorities to increase security in and around the camps. Currently, there are only 40 police officers deployed to secure six of the 31 camps in the province.
We are also liaising with MONUSCO to increase the presence of security forces in areas most in need of protection and to ensure the safety of civilians living in the IDP sites.
Nearly 79,000 displaced Congolese are currently living in 31 IDP camps in North Kivu. Many of them have no hope of going home in the near future due to continued insecurity and renewed fighting between armed groups and the military in their villages. Returns could not be organized during the whole of last year.
North Kivu is home to more than 600,000 IDPs, over one-third of the 1.7 million IDPs countrywide.
For further information on this topic, please contact: In Kinshasa, Celine Schmitt on mobile +243 81 700 9484 In Goma, Simplice Kpandji on mobile +243 81 833 132 In Geneva, Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 3483