Rwanda Shuts Border With Democratic Republic of Congo Amid Ebola Outbreak As U.S. Sees Rise in Congolese Asylum Seekers

Rwanda has shut down its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, where an Ebola outbreak has resulted in more than 1,803 deaths since last August.

The East African country's decision to close its border with the DRC comes after the World Health Organization confirmed that a second person had died of Ebola in Goma, a major city bordering Rwanda.

Dr. Aruna Abedi, the Ebola coordinator for the North Kivu province, also told The Associated Press that the 1-year-old daughter of the man who died is also receiving treatment after showing signs of the disease.

If the infant is diagnosed with Ebola, hers will be the first case of transmission within Goma, a city with a population of more than 2 million.

In a statement, the office of DRC president Félix Tshisekedi said it regretted what it described as a unilateral decision made by Rwandan officials, which it noted "runs counter to the advice of the World Health Organization," according to The Guardian.

Indeed, WHO has recommended against travel restrictions amid the outbreak, but has warned that the risk of regional spread is "very high."

The Ebola outbreak in the DRC started almost exactly one year ago. In the time since, it has become the second deadliest outbreak of the disease on record, with hundreds of cases being diagnosed and at least 1,803 deaths.

Thursday's developments unfold just weeks after U.S. immigration officials flagged a rise in the number of asylum seekers from the DRC arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.

In June, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency described seeing an uncharacteristic rise in asylum seekers from DRC at the border, with U.S. Border Patrol agents with the agency's Del Rio Sector in Texas detaining more than 500 people from African countries in six days alone.

In addition to asylum seekers from the DRC, migrants were also found to be coming from the Republic of the Congo and Angola.

It is unclear what route the asylum seekers are taking to present themselves at the U.S.-Mexico border. However, in recent interviews with NPR, African migrants said they had traveled from their home countries to Brazil, before making their way north towards the U.S.-Mexico border—a trip that could take weeks, if not months.

The rise in African migrants arriving at the southern border comes amid a surge in arrivals of predominantly Central American asylum seekers, with Border Patrol agents detaining nearly 95,000 people at the southwest border in June alone.

Health workers communicate information about Ebola at an Ebola screening station on the road between Butembo and Goma on July 16, 2019 in Goma. Rwanda has closed its border with the DRC over the deadly Ebola outbreak, which recently saw the death of a second person with a confirmed case in Goma. JOHN WESSELS/AFP/Getty