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Refugee influx from Burundi into Tanzania growing, UN agency reports

Refugee influx from Burundi into Tanzania growing, UN agency reports

Mother and child at Mkugwa camp
The latest influx of some 900 refugees from Burundi into Tanzania brings to more than 3,000 the number of arrivals during the month of September, a nearly tenfold increase from August, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today.

Many of the new arrivals said they left Burundi after a period of internal displacement inside the country, while others said they previously had been in camps in Tanzania and had returned home only to decide to flee again, a UNHCR spokesman told a press briefing in Geneva. Many of the new arrivals have been in poor health condition, with malnutrition noticeable among the children.

Refugees continued to report an escalation of the conflict between the Burundian military and rebel groups. “Some say their homes had been burnt by soldiers who accuse them of complicity with the rebels,” spokesman Kris Janowski said. “Some of those interviewed at the weekend said that before fleeing they had seen military helicopters flying around the commune of Kinyinya in Ruyigi province.”

Meanwhile, the number of refugees returning home from camps in Tanzania has dropped dramatically, Mr. Janowski said. Last week, UNHCR assisted only 365 refugees in returning to their homes, mainly in northern Burundi. In recent weeks, an average of 600 refugees had been repatriated each week, compared with up to 1,500 a few months ago. Since the beginning of the year, more than 45,000 Burundian refugees have returned home - 25,000 of them with UNHCR assistance.