(By Estera Popowska)
Following a failed coup to oust Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza, thousands of Burundians are fleeing the East African country, the United Nations refugee agency has said in a report. According to VOA, the UNHCR says refugee numbers in Tanzania, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have soared to more than 105,000 since violence erupted in mid-April.
In the past few days, there is reportedly a sharp rise in the number of Burundian refugees in Tanzania , the U.N. refugee agency reports adding that local immigration authorities say more than 50,000 Burundians are living rough in Kagunga on the shore of Lake Tanganyika. At least 10,000 people reportedly are waiting to cross the border into Tanzania.
The UNHCR further says 26,300 Burundians have taken refuge in Rwanda and more than 9,000 in the province of South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo. UNHCR spokeswoman Karin de Gruijl tells VOA there probably are fewer refugees in these countries than in Tanzania because people are being blocked from leaving Burundi.
“It is easier to block the road to Rwanda and to the road to DRC than preventing people moving up to Tanzania. Again, there have been roadblocks. People have been talking about being harassed by militias; some of them by bribes, some clearly with a political agenda of trying to stop people from fleeing the country," said de Gruijl.
De Gruijl reportedly said the sudden influx of huge numbers of refugees in Tanzania is putting a strain on the ability of the government and aid agencies to respond. She says the living conditions of people arriving in Kagunga are extremely dire. She added that people have managed to bring some food and can fish in the lake, but lack clean drinking water, latrines and shelter.