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Almost 21,000 Burundians flee to Rwanda this month to escape electoral violence

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GENEVA, April 28 (UNHCR) – Almost 21,000 Burundian civilians have fled to neighbouring Rwanda this month to escape electoral violence, including a surge of more than 5,000 who crossed the border over the weekend. Most of the refugees are women and children, who say they have experienced intimidation and threats of violence linked to the June 26 presidential election.

There was a spike in the numbers leaving Burundi after the official list of candidates to run in the presidential election was announced last Saturday, sparking demonstrations and violence in the nation's capital, Bujumbura.

The Government of Rwanda has allocated land in Mahama, Eastern Province, for a new camp and UNHCR and its partners last week began moving refugees there in daily convoys of up to 1,500 people.

"Due to the sharp increase of new arrivals, the conditions in the two reception centres, Bugesera and Nyanza, have become more and more congested and we are expecting to relocate all refugees by Friday," UNHCR spokesperson Ariane Rummery told journalists in Geneva.

She said that after conducting a rapid assessment mission in mid-April to the site in Mahama, "UNHCR immediately mobilized our teams and partners to erect over 450 family tents to accommodate over 4,000 people, seven hangars, 80 latrines, 80 showers, a health post and security post."

Rummery added: "We have already had a safe birth in the new camp, a healthy baby girl nicknamed Baby Mahama. By the end of today we are expecting to receive an additional 1,000 family tents from UNHCR's emergency stockpile in Isaka, Tanzania."

Rwanda is already hosting more than 74,000 refugees, mostly from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo.

So far this month, more than 3,800 Burundian nationals, mostly from Cibitoke prefecture, have fled to South Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.