Heavy Fighting in Eastern DR Congo Forces Thousands Into Uganda

Fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has forced at least 11,000 people to flee to neighbouring Uganda since November 7, 2021, representing the largest refugee influx in a single day for more than a year, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has said.

Women and children comprise the majority of those who have crossed the border to escape clashes between militia groups and the Congolese armed forces in Rutshuru Territory, in the DRC's North Kivu province.

The heavy fighting witnessed in the areas of Chanzu, Kiisiza, Ruyoni and Mbuzi in the north Kivu province is said to have started at 10pm and lasted until 3am on November 7, 2021 . Shabia Mantoo, UNHCR spokesperson, said some 8,000 asylum seekers crossed at Bunagana town, while another 3,000 came through the Kibaya border point in Kisoro district.

Both locations are roughly 500 km southwest of the Ugandan capital, Kampala. On arrival, the asylum-seekers are screened for Covid-19. They are also registered and given water, food, communal shelters, blankets and other items. A system is also in place to identify and fast track people in need of emergency assistance.

Although Uganda's borders are currently closed to asylum-seekers due to pandemic-related restrictions, Mantoo said the government has again implemented a humanitarian exception to allow safe passage for people seeking safety, which UNHCR commended.

InFocus

A group of Congolese asylum-seekers wait at the Bunagana border point after crossing into Uganda from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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