• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

New border crossing opens for return of Burundi refugees from Tanzania

News Stories, 28 January 2004

© UNHCR/R.Wilkinson
Burundi refugees at Mtendeli camp in Tanzania can now use a new repatriation corridor to their homes in Burundi.

DAR-ES-SALAAM, Tanzania Jan 28 (UNHCR) A new border crossing point to bring Burundi refugees home from camps in Tanzania opened this morning for a first trial convoy of 983 returning refugees, paving the way for more facilitated returns to previously inaccessible areas of Burundi.

The new border opening follows an agreement between Burundi, Tanzania and UNHCR at last week's Tripartite Commission meeting in Arusha, Tanzania, amid improved security in Burundi's eastern Ruyigi province. Until today, UNHCR had been facilitating returns of Burundi refugees mainly to northern and central Burundi.

The convoy of 22 trucks left Kibondo district in Tanzania for Ruyigi province in Burundi through the Mabamba-Gisuru crossing point. The 983 returnees had been staying in Nduta, Karago and Mtendeli camps in Kibondo district. UNHCR's Deputy Director for Africa, Zobida Hassim-Ashagrie, accompanied the convoy.

Some 60,000 refugees in Kibondo come from Ruyigi, and UNHCR expects around half of them to return home this year.

Two other border crossing points have been used so far for the repatriation. Returns to Muyinga and neighbouring provinces in the north arrive in Burundi via the Kobero crossing point. Those from Cankuzo province in the east enter through Murusugamba. If security continues to improve, a fourth crossing point would open later this year to Makamba province in the south.

UNHCR dispatched an emergency team to Burundi on Jan. 20 to look into opening new offices in Ruyigi and Makamba provinces and expanding the agency's presence in Muyinga. The deployment comes amid improved security in parts of Burundi after the signing of a cease-fire deal and a power-sharing agreement last year between the transitional government in Bujumbura and the rebel Forces for the Defence of Democracy. The refugee agency closed its office in Ruyigi and reduced its presence in Muyinga in 2002 due to insecurity.

Over 300,000 Burundian refugees still live in Tanzania's camps. Since UNHCR started facilitating voluntary repatriation to Burundi in 2002, over 70,000 refugees have returned with UNHCR's help. The returnees receive basic assistance including food, jerry cans, blankets and plastic sheeting for shelter. Another 45,000 refugees returned to Burundi on their own in 2003.




Finding a Home on Ancestral Land

Somali Bantu refugees gaining citizenship in Tanzania

The Nansen Refugee Award 2005

Burundian humanitarian worker Maggy Barankitse received the 2005 Nansen Refugee Award for her tireless work on behalf of children affected by war, poverty and disease. The Nansen medal was presented at a grand ceremony in Brussels by H.R.H. Princess Mathilde of Belgium and UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Wendy Chamberlin.

Accepting the award, Barankitse said her work was inspired by one single goal: peace. "Accept your fellow man, sit down together, make this world a world of brothers and sisters," she said. "Nothing resists love, that's the message that I want to spread."

Sponsored by UNHCR corporate partner Microsoft, the ceremony and reception at Concert Noble was also attended by Belgium's Minister for Development Co-operation Armand De Decker, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel, renowned Burundian singer Khadja Nin, Congolese refugee and comedian Pie Tshibanda, and French singer and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Julien Clerc. Among others.

The Nansen Refugee Award 2005

A fresh start; Burundian former refugees begin a new chapter in their lives

Since the end of October more than 26,000 Burundian former refugees have been assisted by UNHCR and its partners to return home from the Mtabila camp in northwest Tanzania. The operation is organized with the Government of Tanzania to help some 35,500 Burundian former refugees go back to Burundi by the end of 2012, when the Mtabila camp officially closes.

Refugee status for most Burundians in Tanzania formally ended in August following individual interviews to assess remaining protection needs. A total of 2,715 people will continue to be hosted as refugees in Tanzania, while the rest, the last of a population of refugees who left Burundi some 20 years ago, must return home. This is not an easy move after having spent most of your life -- and sometimes all of it -- in exile.

While awaiting their turn to join one of the daily convoys to bring them home, Burundian former refugees are preparing themselves for a fresh start…

A fresh start; Burundian former refugees begin a new chapter in their lives

Photo Gallery: The Challenge of Forced Displacement in Africa

Africa is the continent most affected by the tragedy of forced displacement. While millions of refugees were able to return to Angola, Burundi, Liberia, Rwanda and South Sudan over the last 15 years, the numbers of internally displaced people continued to grow. At the beginning of 2009, in addition to some 2.3 million refugees, an estimated 11.6 million people were internally displaced by conflict in Africa.

To address forced displacement on the continent, the African Union is organizing a special summit on refugees, returnees and internally displaced people from October 19-23 in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. Heads of state and government will look at the challenges and at ways to find solutions to forced displacement. They are also expected to adopt a Convention for the protection and assistance of internally displaced people (IDP) in Africa, which would be the first legally binding instrument on internal displacement with a continental scope. This photo gallery looks at some of the forcibly displaced around Africa, many of whom are helped by UNHCR.

Photo Gallery: The Challenge of Forced Displacement in Africa

Tanzania: Fleeing Burundi, Refugees Seek SafetyPlay video

Tanzania: Fleeing Burundi, Refugees Seek Safety

He used to fix broken bicycles in Burundi, but as political troubles and killings mounted Nestor Kamza decided to flee. In search of safety he and his family walked non-stop for 24-hours until they reached Tanzania. His family is among more than 100,000 people who have fled from political violence in Burundi and arrived in the Nyarugusu camp which has almost tripled in size. To alleviate overcrowding in the camp, UNHCR and its partners have planned to open three new camps and have started moving tens of thousands of Burundian refugees to a new, less congested, home
Tanzania: Setting Sail to SafetyPlay video

Tanzania: Setting Sail to Safety

More than 60,000 Burundian refugees have arrived in Tanzania since the beginning of May. On the shores of Lake Tanganyika, hundreds board a ferry to Kigoma, Tanzania, before continuing to Nyaragusu camp.
Rwanda: Flight from BurundiPlay video

Rwanda: Flight from Burundi

In recent weeks, the number of Burundian refugees crossing into Rwanda has increased significantly. According to the Government of Rwanda, since the beginning of April, 25,004 Burundians, mostly women and children, have fled to Rwanda. Many said they had experienced intimidation and threats of violence linked to the upcoming elections.