Bujumbura- Burundi (PANA) -- About 16,000 Burundian refugees from neighbouring Tanzania have returned home since the launching last February of a scheme for their voluntary repatriation, official sources disclosed Monday in Bujumbura.
The operation is coordinated by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Burundi and Tanzania, in collaboration with the governments of the two countries.
Partners in the exercise met in Bujumbura Monday at a two-day seminar to assess progress and agree on strategies for a census of the refugees, their transportation as well as resettlement and eventual reintegration in their regions of origin.
Nyakiki Jean Bosco, Permanent Secretary at the Burundian Ministry in charge of refugees and displaced persons, said growing insecurity in several regions of the country hinders the smooth running of the repatriation.
He deplored the hesitance of NGOs that could have helped speed up the repatriation exercise.
For his part, Burundi HCR delegate Stefano Severe said his organisation would continue the voluntary repatriation of Burundi refugees in the strict compliance with international conventions.
He reaffirmed the agency's stance against the repatriation of refugees to regions that are still exposed to insecurity, such as the south-eastern and eastern parts of Burundi.
According to the HCR, about 70,000 Burundi refugees in Tanzania would like to return to their country.
A total of 400,000 Burundians are in exile in Tanzania.
Some have been there for over 30 years.
They are mainly of the majority Hutu ethnic group that fled the country when the civil war broke out in 1993.