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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.

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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

Tanzanian refugees return to Zanzibar

The UN refugee agency has successfully completed the voluntary repatriation of 38 Tanzanian refugees from Zanzibar who had been residing in the Somalia capital, Mogadishu, for more than a decade. The group, comprising 12 families, was flown on two special UNHCR-chartered flights from Mogadishu to Zanzibar on July 6, 2012. From there, seven families were accompanied back to their home villages on Pemba Island, while five families opted to remain and restart their lives on the main Zanzibar island of Unguja. The heads of households were young men when they left Zanzibar in January 2001, fleeing riots and violence following the October 2000 elections there. They were among 2,000 refugees who fled from the Tanzanian island of Pemba. The remainder of the Tanzanian refugee community in Mogadishu, about 70 people, will wait and see how the situation unfolds for those who went back before making a final decision on their return.

Tanzanian refugees return to Zanzibar

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

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