Panafrican News Agency

Nearly 250,000 Burundian refugees return home

Bujumbura, Burundi (PANA)  -  Nearly 250,000 Burundian refugees have since 2017 to date voluntarily returned or been assisted to return home, mainly from neighboring Tanzania, an official source told PANA here Thursday.

The refugees fled to Tanzania following the 2015 controversial elections and persistent violence in their country of origin, the state-run radio and television network (RTNB) reported, citing a source at the Burundian ministry of the Interior.

In all, 80,000 of these exiles benefited from repatriation facilitated by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its various partners, while another 170,000 returned voluntarily.

Officially, returns are motivated by the general improvement of security in the country of origin, where, moreover, living conditions are judged better than those in which they live in asylum situations.

On the other hand, at the end of October, UNHCR was concerned about cases of "forced returns", following an agreement of August 24 between Tanzania and Burundi.

The agreement provides that about 180,000 Burundian refugees in Tanzania "must return to their country of origin voluntarily or not", at a rate of 2,000 weekly by next December 31.

The UNHCR's updated figures show more than 250,000 Burundian refugees fled to Tanzania to escape political instability in their country of origin.

 The United Nations Specialized Agency and its partners urged Tanzania to ensure that the return of Burundian refugees is voluntary and takes place as a result of individual choice, in accordance with international obligations.                  

The other host countries are Rwanda, which currently hosts 68,614 Burundian refugees, compared with 42,308 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and 33,657 in Uganda, making a total of 367,657 across the East African sub-region.

 According to the UNHCR, the shortage of funds has led to a reduction in food rations in Burundian refugee camps, an insufficient number of decent shelters and overcrowded classrooms that deprive children of schooling.

In 2018, the UNHCR and its partners received only 33 per cent of the $ 391 million requested to help Burundian refugees.

The 2019-2020 Regional Assistance Plan for Burundian Refugees was published at the end of December 2018, with a call for funds of US $ 296 million in 2019.


-0-      PANA      FB/ IS/KND/RA   14Nov2019