At the end of June 2017, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) hosted 40,015 Burundian refugees, out of whom 38,133 reside in the province of South Kivu including 30,030 in Lusenda Camp, 6,670 who reside in host families, and 1,427 who remain in transit centres. An additional 1,882 Burundians are living with host communities in Katanga, Maniema and North Kivu Provinces.
In the first six months of 2017, a total of 6,178 Burundian refugees crossed into DRC, with a peak of 2,086 registered in February. Burundian refugees enter the DRC through Uvira and Fizi territories in South Kivu province, crossing one of the 22 formal or informal border entry points. The security situation in South Kivu is volatile due to the presence of armed groups causing considerable internal displacement. The province also hosts refugees of other nationalities, notably Rwandans.
Refugees have little access to economic resources to meet their survival needs, except those who receive land to cultivate. According to informal return intentions surveys, refugees are unwilling to return to their country of origin in the foreseeable future due to security concerns. Dwindling funding is a growing cause for concern in maintaining peaceful co-existence between refugees and their hosts, increasing tensions as a result of competition over already stretched resources. Additionally, the reported presence of the Forces Nationales de Liberation (FNL) and the Forces Républicaines Burundaises (FOREBU) in the area constitutes a threat for the safety of Burundian refugees and negatively impacts the civilian character of asylum.
To maintain the civilian character of asylum, UNHCR is supporting 40 police officers in Lusenda refugee camp and is funding a security screening by the National Commission for Refugee (CNR), General Directorate for Migration (DGM), and other local authorities to make the distinction, upon arrival in the reception and transit centres, between genuine refugees and armed elements.
While DRC authorities have maintained an open-door policy for refugees, prima facie status for Burundian refugees was revoked in January 2017, mainly to allow for individual security screening. Freedom of movement is guaranteed and refugees are receiving refugee certificates. Based on the government’s decision that assistance should take place in a camp setting, a site was opened in Lusenda (Fizi territory), with four extensions to date (Lulinda, Katungulu I, Katungulu II, and Katungulu III) where multi-sector assistance is provided to refugees through a community-based approach.
Initially planned for a maximum of 20,000 refugees, Lusenda camp and its extensions are now overcrowded, putting significant pressure on the provision of basic and essential services. The overcrowding has also given rise to significant security challenges. The local authorities have granted additional land (Mulongwe) for the establishment of a new camp to accommodate up to 30,000 refugees. Construction works started in July 2017 after delays linked to security and funding constraints.
UNHCR coordinates the overall refugees response targeting camp-based refugees as well as those living with the host community in close cooperation with government authorities and international agencies and NGOs.