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UN Concerned About Repatriation of Congolese Refugees from Rwanda - 2002-09-11

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees says it is concerned about reports the government of Rwanda is forcefully repatriating Congolese refugees from Rwanda to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency in Nairobi, Jonathan Clayton, says the refugee organization has received reports Rwanda is forcing thousands of Tutsi refugees from refugee camps in Rwanda to return to Eastern Congo. He says the refugee agency has sent a letter of concern to Rwandese President Paul Kagame.

Mr. Clayton says it is against the world norm to repatriate refugees under duress.

Some 32,000 Congolese Tutsi refugees fled to Rwanda in 1998, when rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda invaded the Democratic Republic of Congo. Many have been living in two refugee camps in Rwanda.

The Rwandese government denies forcing the refugees out. An official of Rwanda's Ministry of Social Affairs told Reuters that the refugees returned home, of their own free will. The government is reported to have given 32,000 refugees until Sunday to vacate the camps. Mr. Clayton says this deadline is forcing the refugees to move away under duress. He says the repatriations are neither volutary nor sustainable and are a violation of international rules on refugee protection.