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Conditions Deteriorating in Overcrowded Burundi Refugee Camps

  • Lisa Schlein

FILE - Refugees who fled Burundi's violence and political tension wait to board a U.N. ship, at Kagunga on Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania, to be taken to the port city of Kigoma, May 23, 2015.

The U.N. refugee agency warns conditions in camps for Burundian refugees in countries of asylum are deteriorating and more land is urgently needed to accommodate the growing number of new refugee arrivals.

Tanzania, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo are hosting more than 386,000 Burundian refugees. The U.N. refugee agency expects that number to exceed 1.5 million this year as refugees continue to flee political instability and abuse in Burundi.

Peace talks between the government and opposition are stalled. Though Burundi has largely fallen off the media radar, UNHCR spokesman Leo Dobbs told VOA the crisis gripping the country remains acute.

“There are still reports of forced disappearances, targeted assassinations and extra-judicial killings of civilians and law enforcement agents. And, also sporadic attacks by unidentified armed people. So, the situation is still quite grave and hundreds of people are still leaving ... There is still a flow, hundreds of people a week,” he said.

As more Burundians flee into neighboring countries, the UNHCR said the pressure for land there is rising. It said the situation is most serious in Tanzania, which is hosting more than 222,000 people.

Dobbs said the UNHCR and its partners are working feverishly with the countries of asylum to find more land to ensure shelter.

“With the problems of space, if it is not resolved and we do not get more land, then there is a danger that conditions will deteriorate and aid delivery will be affected,” he said.

Besides the urgent need for more land, the UNHCR says existing camp facilities must be upgraded, including construction of more homes, schools, health centers and better drainage systems to lessen the risk of disease.

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