UNHCR: over 250,000 people have fled Burundi conflict

Burundian refugees arriving in Tanzania

Burundian refugees arriving in Tanzania last year

With tension still high in the East African state of Burundi, the number of people who have fled the country and sought shelter in neighboring states has passed the 250,000 mark with fears that the number could even go higher as more continue to arrive.
According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, the average rate of new arrivals per week has been more than 1,000 in Tanzania, 500 in Uganda, 230 in Rwanda and 200 in Democratic Republic of the Congo with small numbers of spontaneous returns being registered.

“Despite recent high-level efforts to engage the government, we have not seen significant improvements in the security and human rights situation on the ground. The deteriorating economic situation is also a cause for concern and could trigger further displacement,” the UN refugee agency said in a statement sent to this website.

UNHCR’s latest figures show that 250,473 people have been registered as refugees in Democratic Republic of the Congo (21,186); Rwanda (73,926); Tanzania (131,834); Uganda (22,330 since November 2014); and Zambia (1,197) since early April last year, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans to run for a third term, which he later won.

Although there has been a slight lull in violence recently, refugees arriving in the host countries continue to report human rights violations in Burundi and difficulty in leaving the country.

The statement added that the agency has been receiving a growing number of refugee reports about detention and sexual and gender-based violence during transit.

“Some 1,700 Burundian refugees have arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo so far this year. Many are living in poor rural areas, where conditions are harsh, and about two-thirds (14,772) are in Lusenda camp, which is nearing its capacity of 18,000. Overcrowding is a problem in all host countries, including Tanzania, which has taken in more Burundians than any other country,” the agency said.

In Rwanda, close to 48,000 Burundian refugees are living in Mahama camp, the largest camp in Rwanda, and more than 26,400 in Kigali and other towns. As the insecurity persists in Burundi they are running out of savings, which will increase their need for assistance. The government, meanwhile, has clarified that it has no plans to relocate Burundian refugees and will keep its doors open.

In Uganda, about two thirds of Burundian arrivals in the past year are being hosted in Nakivale Refugee Settlement (14,876) in the South-West Region, 21 per cent in the capital Kampala, and the remainder in Kyaka II, Oruchinga and Kisoro settlements. Most are young women and children, with a disproportionately low number of young men.
The UNHCR says that efforts are under way to extend settlement areas at Nakivale and other locations.

“As with the other asylum countries, funding is a major problem which is affecting access to education, health care, livelihoods, counseling and more, though Uganda allows people to work and travel,” it added.

The agency has requested $175.1 million for the Burundi humanitarian response in 2016 and has to date received only $4.7 million, or about 3 per cent. Last week, Japan donated $2.5 million to the UN refugee agency in Rwanda to cater for Burundian refugees.