UNHCR resumes repatriation of Congolese refugees from Burundi

News Stories, 1 November 2010

© UNHCR/S.Lubuku
One of the returnees with her child at the Kavimvira transit centre in South Kivu.

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, November 1 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency has resumed the assisted repatriation of Congolese refugees from Burundi to South Kivu province after a hiatus of more than two years due to insecurity.

A first group of 173 Congolese left the transit centre of Songore in northern Burundi early last Thursday and crossed the border at Gatumba some five hours later. They are among some 1,000 civilians who, encouraged by improving security, have said they wish to return to their home areas in South Kivu.

Last week's return convoy came under an agreement signed last December between UNHCR and the governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Burundi. Return convoys will be organized on a weekly basis and UNHCR plans to facilitate the return of up to 12,000 Congolese refugees to DRC by the end of next year.

Those trucked back to South Kivu last week had been staying in the Gasorwe refugee camp and most wanted to go to Uvira and Fizi districts.

"I am so happy and proud to be back home and to see that our country is getting back on its feet," Faradja Mariam, a mother of six, told UNHCR at the border. "I was tired of depending on humanitarian assistance in the refugee camp. I'm returning to the DRC to ensure a better future for my children," added the 51-year-old widow, who fled to Burundi in 2002 and was returning to Uvira.

Another returnee, 37-year-old Tamali Nyota, said she wanted to use the skills she had learned while helping young children in Burundi. "At Gasorwe, I was helping as an aide at the kindergarten," she said, adding: "This is what I want to do now that I am back in my country. I want to help children build their lives."

Faradja, Tamali and the other returnees will receive an aid package to help them rebuild their lives, but they will face many challenges ahead in a volatile region. Insecurity in South Kivu interrupted UNHCR's earlier assisted repatriation operation, which saw 1,500 Congolese refugees go back to the province from Burundi from the end of 2006 to mid-2007.

After crossing the border, the returnees were taken to Kavimvira transit centre in Uvira, where they were offered a hot meal and were given food rations for three months and basic shelter and household items, including plastic sheeting, blankets, kitchen sets, jerry cans, soap and mosquito nets as well as seeds and agricultural tools. They will receive free medical care for six months.

UNHCR also works closely with local authorities and support groups to help ease the reintegration of returning refugees, including funding infrastructure and income-generation projects. The refugee agency also helps internally displaced people who have returned to their homes.

Burundi is hosting more than 28,000 Congolese refugees, with some 20,000 in camps such as Gasorwe and the rest living in the capital city of Bujumbura.

By Celine Schmitt in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Hugues van Brabandt in Bujumbura, Burundi.





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

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Tanzanian refugees return to Zanzibar

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