Δευτέρα, 29 Ιουνίου 2015

Geneva, 26.06.2015 BRIEFER: Adrian Edwards, UNHCR Spokesperson 1. As Burundi gears up for elections, more people are fleeing 2. UNHCR urges further EU action on refugees This is a summary of what was said by the UNHCR spokesperson at today’s Palais des Nations press briefing in Geneva.

1.   As Burundi gears up for elections, more people are fleeing

As Burundi readies for its scheduled parliamentary elections on Monday (29 June), UNHCR offices in neighbouring countries have been noting a steady increase in arrivals of Burundian refugees. 
People tell us they are fleeing the general political instability and election-related violence including small arms and grenade attacks, and arbitrary arrests.

Burundi’s political turmoil, which started in early April, has so far seen nearly 127,000 Burundians registering as refugees in neighbouring Tanzania (62,000), Rwanda (45,000), Uganda (8,855), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (10,590), and as far away as Zambia (400). 
Many more Burundians are thought to have left the country but have not registered as refugees – their number is unknown.  

In Tanzania, refugees continue to arrive at a rate of nearly 200 to 300 people per day. 
They are being transferred to the Nyarugusu refugee camp, which is becoming overcrowded. 
Before the recent arrival of tens of thousands of Burundian refugees, the camp was already home to more than 60,000 Congolese refugees. 
It is now hosting nearly 120,000 refugees, making for congested living conditions and stretching services and facilities. 
UNHCR and partners are working with the Government of Tanzania to urgently identify an alternative site to establish a new camp.

In Rwanda, the number of arrivals has increased sharply over the last few days, with more than 600 refugees crossing the border each day. 
The registration of refugees in the capital Kigali is also continuing, with some 10,000 Burundians registered thus far. We expect this number to grow as registration expands to Rwanda’s second biggest city Butare.  
More than 30,000 refugees have now been moved to the Mahama refugee camp, which can accommodate a maximum of 50,000 refugees.   

In the DRC province of South Kivu, refugees were initially staying with host communities that include Burundian refugees who left the country years ago. 
Many of the hosts are themselves in poverty, and to be able to offer better protection and assistance services, the arriving refugees are being relocated to Lusenda refugee site. 
Relocation efforts have been sped up over the last days as a contingency measure for possible more arrivals. 
The two transit centres at the border area are now empty and ready for use if more people arrive.

Some 150 -200 Burundian refugees are arriving per day in Uganda, while the authorities in Zambia have reported the arrival of some 400 refugees over the last few weeks.

A month ago, UNHCR and 17 partners launched the Regional Refugee Response Plan, asking for US$ 207 million to protect and assist up to 200,000 Burundian refugees. 
Although the situation in Burundi is deteriorating further and refugee numbers are increasing rapidly, the response plan is only funded at 13 per cent. 
This leaves crucial activities such as shelter, water, health, sanitation and education seriously underfunded.

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 2.   UNHCR urges further EU action on refugees
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UNHCR notes last night’s decision of the European Council to relocate 40,000 people in need of international protection and to resettle 20,000 refugees. 
This is an important step along the way to finding answers to this crisis, but clearly much more will have to be done, including addressing root causes.

Amid the largest global forced displacement crisis of modern times it is essential that states work together to find answers, and that Europe shows leadership and vision in addressing the challenges of protecting the thousands of refugees who today are fleeing war. 

On the agreed relocation of 40,000 people in clear need of international protection, the participation of all Member States will be key to success. 
These measures will need to be expanded to address current needs, and the fact that an increased proportion of sea arrivals are now taking place in Greece. 
This initiative can help to alleviate some pressure on Italy and Greece, but also needs to be accompanied by a better functioning of the Dublin system.

On the proposal for EU-wide resettlement of 20,000 refugees, UNHCR urges Member States to make concrete commitments towards this goal, beyond existing resettlement quotas. 
We are also calling on Member States to offer other legal avenues for people in need of international protection – including a more effective, timely and consistent application of family reunification procedures, as put forward in the Commission’s European Agenda on Migration. 
 Providing realistic and substantial alternative channels for people to reach safety will also be a way to support international efforts to combat smuggling and trafficking. 

UNHCR has long recognised the importance of return programmes for people not in need of international protection to preserve the integrity of asylum systems and, in this regard, notes that such policies should be implemented in line with fundamental rights and the principle of non-refoulement.

While the European Council acknowledges the necessity for cooperation with countries of origin, first asylum/transit, root causes need to be tackled. 
In the context of forced displacement, finding political solutions to conflicts and human rights violations, together with increasing development cooperation, are critically needed. 
Furthermore, today, major humanitarian operations such as Syria and Central African Republic are dramatically underfunded.
Through more targeted assistance, including development initiatives, the resilience and self-reliance of refugees and internally displaced populations could be strengthened, allowing them to live their lives with hope and dignity.

UNHCR stands ready to collaborate with EU Member States and EU institutions, as well as other partners, in making these objectives a reality. 
Now is the time for all EU Member States to show strong commitment and leadership in supporting and building on these measures.  
END


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