UN refugee agency notes milestone in repatriating long-term Burundian refugees

16 September 2009

More than 50,000 Burundian refugees have now been repatriated from Tanzania, where some of them had been living since fleeing their country in 1972, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

A further 5,000 refugees who remain in Tanzania are expected to return to Burundi in the coming months.

“Assisted voluntary return, organized by UNHCR [the UN High Commissioner for Refugees] in cooperation with the governments of Tanzania and Burundi, is part of an ambitious but realistic solutions strategy to end one of the world’s most protracted refugee situations,” said UNHCR’s representative in Tanzania, Yacoub El Hillo.

The 50,000th refugee to be repatriated was an 11-month-old baby girl called Happiness, who crossed the border in a group of 496 people on Sunday. UNHCR and its local partners marked the occasion with a small ceremony in Katumba settlement. They gave Happiness’ parents – both farmers who were born and raised in the refugee settlement – a new bicycle to take with them for her.

UNHCR provides support for the so-called 1972 refugees from Burundi after they return home. It provides them with temporary shelter and supports a peaceful mediation process to resolve disputes. The Government and its UN partners also help to settle landless returnees in special rural integrated villages, six of which have been opened in 2008 and 2009.


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