Almost 900 Burundians return from Tanzania under latest repatriation plan - UNHCR

9 April 2002

Almost 900 Burundian refugees have returned home from Tanzania as part of a new plan limiting repatriations to the northern part of Burundi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today.

Almost 900 Burundian refugees have returned home from Tanzania as part of a new plan limiting repatriations to the northern part of Burundi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today.

"They are tired after staying in camps for nine years, they want to go home," UNHCR's spokeswoman in Tanzania, Ivana Unluova, said of the 884 refugees who have returned to Burundi in three groups since 28 March.

The return of refugees to the southern provinces of Ruyigi and Makamba will remain on hold due to the insecurity of the area, UNHCR said, while those returning to the more stable north will continue to be repatriated at the rate of about 500 per week. The returnees receive food and a reintegration package at a transit centre in Burundi before departing for their region of origin. So far, more than 50,000 refugees have signed up for voluntary repatriation.

Last Thursday, a two-day meeting between UNHCR and the Governments of Tanzania and Burundi on transport and reception plans for repatriated refugees agreed that the UN agency should only facilitate the repatriation of refugees who originate from the northern provinces of Burundi.

UNHCR said the current security situation in Burundi did not allow for a mass organized return, but agreed to help transport and reintegrate those refugees who wished to return home.

"A ceasefire in Burundi would create the strongest pull factor for refugees currently in Tanzania," said UNHCR representative Chris Ache. "It's up to the Governments of Burundi and Tanzania to create conducive conditions for a massive repatriation."

Tanzanian authorities have repeatedly complained that the Burundian refugees - close to 1 million scattered in UNHCR-run camps or in villages living with relatives or friends - are a burden to their impoverished country and should be repatriated or resettled in another country.

 

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