797 Congolese claim asylum in Burundi

Due to the clashes between the Congolese army and Mayi-Mayi militia since 2 December, 796 Congolese asylum seekers have been sheltered at the Cishemere Congolese refugees’ transit site, in the province of Cibitoke, North-west of Burundi. 200 among them who are already recognized by Burundi government as Congolese refugees have been transferred to Kavumu Refugee Camp in Cankuzo, South-eastern province of Burundi.

Congolese refugees receiving food assistance in Cishemere refugee transit site

Congolese refugees receiving food assistance in Cishemere refugee transit site

“We were sleeping at 5 pm when we heard heavy gunfire from four positions in different villages. We hid under the beds and other neighbors went to hide in the forest. We were stuck there until 3am. We finally decided to join others in the forest. We stayed there for three days. After the third day, we took the road to Burundi because we risked dying of starvation. We reached the Rusizi River on 5 December, “said Nema Heda, one of the asylum seekers from Nyamwoma locality in South Kivu in DRC.

She says that the Red Cross agents and the Burundian soldiers took them from the river to the Cishemere transit site where they have been living since 5 December.

Heda says that these refugees live an unhappy life in the Cishemere site and hope to have refugee status very soon.

“Here we do not receive enough food and living conditions are deplorable. We do not have cooking utensils and equipment. We sleep on the floor. We look forward to being taken to the Cankuzo Congolese refugee camp where we hope living conditions are better than here, “she said.

Sikitu, another asylum seeker from Nyamwoma locality asks the Burundian government to issue them with a refugee status as soon as possible to be transferred to the Congolese refugee camp. “Here, we are dying of hunger, we lead a miserable life,” says Sikitu.

Red Cross Burundi manages Cishemere Congolese refugees’ transit site

The Red Cross Burundi, which is in charge of the Cishemere transit site of the Congolese refugees, says the site recorded 142 families of 796 people from 5 to 13 December. 200 people have been transferred to the Kavumu Congolese refugee camp in Cankuzo south-eastern province of Burundi after being granted the status of Congolese refugees in Burundi by the National Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons-ONPRA.

The Red-Cross Burundi also says the refugees live in difficult conditions in the transit site of Cishemere: “The site has the capacity to only accommodate 510 people and currently houses 586 people”. To address this problem, the Red Cross, together with its partners, is building rooms to extend the accommodation capacity of the site.

Our source says only most vulnerable people get mattresses while others sleep on the floor. The Red Cross distributes food (legumes, beans, corn flour, cooking oil, salt… ) to the refugees after each seven days.
Created in 2013, the transit site of Cishemere is intended only for Congolese refugees recognized by the government of Burundi.