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Burundians return home from DRC's South Kivu, in new repatriation drive

Briefing Notes, 5 October 2010

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 5 October 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

This morning, at around 8.30 local time, a convoy carrying some 240 Burundian refugees from neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo crossed the border back into Burundi, marking the start of a new series of voluntary returns in one of the world's longest-running refugee sagas.

The refugees who returned today are among some 10,000 expected to go back to Burundi over the coming months at a rate of one convoy per week. Most are from the western Burundian provinces of Bubanza, Bujumbura rural, and Cibitoke, or from the southern province of Bururi. Once home, they will benefit from our reintegration programs including healthcare, education and shelter kits.

This particular return was the first that UNHCR has been able to facilitate from DRC's South Kivu province, where insecurity has until now prevented repatriations from occurring. The refugees there 15,000 in total and mainly in the Uvira and Fizi regions are the remnants of the tens of thousands of Burundians who fled ethnic clashes in their homeland in 1972 and later in the early 1990s. Of those in South Kivu, 10,000 have told us they want to go home. Of the remaining 5,000, many are hoping to settle permanently in DRC, and we are working with the government to address their integration needs.

Including the refugees in South Kivu, there are 16,500 Burundian refugees in DRC and close to 80,000 in other countries surrounding Burundi. Over the past six years more than half a million have returned home voluntarily, most with UNHCR support. Others have been integrated where they are: Tanzania, for example, has granted citizenship to 162,000 of them.

Burundi is itself a refugee host country with some 41,000 Congolese refugees in four camps and in urban areas. Two thousand of these have requested UNHCR's help in returning to DRC this year and we hope to begin repatriations on October 20th. This two-way voluntary repatriation programme Burundians in one direction, Congolese in the other has come about as a result of the tripartite agreement between UNHCR, Burundi, and DRC which was signed on 11 December last year.





UNHCR works with the country of origin and host countries to help refugees return home.

Return to Swat Valley

Thousands of displaced Pakistanis board buses and trucks to return home, but many remain in camps for fear of being displaced again.

Thousands of families displaced by violence in north-west Pakistan's Swat Valley and surrounding areas are returning home under a government-sponsored repatriation programme. Most cited positive reports about the security situation in their home areas as well as the unbearable heat in the camps as key factors behind their decision to return. At the same time, many people are not yet ready to go back home. They worry about their safety and the lack of access to basic services and food back in Swat. Others, whose homes were destroyed during the conflict, are worried about finding accommodation. UNHCR continues to monitor people's willingness to return home while advocating for returns to take place in safety and dignity. The UN refugee agency will provide support for the transport of vulnerable people wishing to return, and continue to distribute relief items to the displaced while assessing the emergency shelter needs of returnees. More than 2 million people have been displaced since early May in north-west Pakistan. Some 260,000 found shelter in camps, but the vast majority have been staying with host families or in rented homes or school buildings.

Return to Swat Valley

UNHCR resumes return operation for 43,000 Angolans in DR Congo

The UN refugee agency has resumed a voluntary repatriation programme for Angolan refugees living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Some 43,000 Angolans have said they want to go back home under a project that was suspended four years ago for various reasons. A first group of 252 Angolan civilians left the UNHCR transit centre in the western DRC town of Kimpese on November 4, 2011 They crossed the border a few hours later and were warmly welcomed by officials and locals in Mbanza Congo. In the first two weeks of the repatriation operation, more than 1,000 Angolan refugees returned home from the DRC provinces of Bas-Congo in the west and Katanga in the south. Out of some 113,000 Angolan refugees living in neighbouring countries, 80,000 are hosted by the DRC.

UNHCR resumes return operation for 43,000 Angolans in DR Congo

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

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