Burundi: repatriation from Tanzania - numbers remaining under 300,000

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

More than 40,700 Burundi refugees have returned home from camps in Tanzania so far this year, bringing the number of Burundi refugees in Tanzanian camps to below 300,000 for the first time in years. In total, 40,788 refugees have returned this year, leaving just over 290,000 refugees still in the camps. The last time the camp population was below 300,000 was in 1998. According to the Tanzanian authorities, another 170,000 Burundians, most of whom left Burundi in the early 1970s, live outside the camps in settlements and some 300,000 have settled on their own in villages.

The vast majority of those returning this year have come back on UNHCR-facilitated convoys, mainly through two border crossing points - Gisuru crossing in the east and Kobero in the north. A third entry point for facilitated returns is Gahumo, in Cankuzo province. A fourth entry point for the facilitated returns is scheduled to open at Mugina in the southern province of Makamba, possibly early in June. The opening of this crossing point has faced some delays due to heavy rains which have slowed road repairs needed to enable the convoys to travel.

So far this year, we have also organized three go-and-see visits to bring refugees from the camps to see for themselves what the situation is like in their home areas and report back to their fellow refugees. The most recent visit in early May brought ten refugees from Lukole camps in Tanzania to visit their home communes in Kirundo province and meet with relatives, neighbours and the administrative authorities. Upon their return to the refugee camp in Ngara, the refugees were guests on Radio Kwizera in Ngara, a radio station that broadcasts refugee programmes in Tanzania. A fourth go-and-see visit is planned for the end of May. Since we began facilitating returns to Burundi in 2002, more than 176,000 refugees have returned home from camps in Tanzania.