21 December 2013

Rwanda: Govt to Set Up New Camp for DRC Refugees

The Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (Midimar) is constructing a new camp to host thousands of Congolese refugees temporarily sheltered at Nkamira Transit Centre in Rubavu District.

The camp, which is being constructed in Mugombwa Sector of Gisagara District, Southern Province, will host the nearly 10,000 refugees.

Mugombwa Refugee Camp becomes the second facility for Congolese refugees in Southern Province after Kigeme Refugee Camp, which was set up in 2012.

It brings the number of refugee camps to five, after Kigeme, Nyabiheke, Kiziba and Gihembe.

The country hosts more than 73,000 Congolese refugees.

Activities to build the camp have rolled off with the ground-breaking ceremony by Midimar minister Seraphine Mukantabana on Thursday.

The government has spent more than Rwf110 million on the expropriation of residents who have been living on the 47.7-hectare piece of land where the camp is being set up.

The camp will have water, health facilities and sanitation infrastructure. Also among the envisaged infrastructure is a school. The construction of parts of the facility has reached an advanced stage.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is supporting the construction activities, expected to be complete in two weeks.

Minister Mukantabana said construction activities will start with the setting up of temporary tents to accommodate the refugees.

"Activities are progressing well and we are confident that the relocation [of refugees] will start in due time," Mukantabana said after her visit.

Environment protection

Since last year, Rwanda started receiving influx of Congolese nationals who were fleeing clashes between government and M23 rebels.

Kigeme Camp, which currently hosts more than 18,000 refugees, was overwhelmed by the influx. The situation prompted government to start looking for alternative solutions, leading to the setting up of a large camp in Nyamagabe District.

Initially, Midimar sought to expand Nyabiheke Refugee Camp in Eastern Province to accommodate the refugees who were still crammed at Nkamira Transit Centre, but the plans were undone by lack of land.

'Eastern DRC still unstable'

Although the M23 is no more and relative peace has returned to DR Congo, the eastern swathes of the country remain volatile, thus limiting the refugees' prospects for return to their homeland, officials said.

Mukantabana said: "It's an obligation for us to ensure that the refugees are in safe places and in accordance with international refugees convention which stipulates that refugees should not be accommodated near the border of the country they fled from.

Relocation of refugees from Nkamira Transit Centre is expected to start next month. At the beginning, 600 families with school-going children will be relocated in time to start school in the first term, Mukantabana said.

Meanwhile, efforts are being made to ensure that the environment in and around the camp remain safe, even after the arrival of the refugees, the minister said.

Land terracing and drainage activities are envisaged to protect the land while efforts to make sure that no tree is cut by refugees after the establishment of the camp have also been undertaken.

Gisagara District mayor Leandre Karekezi said: "We feel it is our responsibility to make a contribution in making these people [refugees] safe. We are ready to host them and have been preparing our population ahead of their arrival."

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