Burundi repatriation from Ngara
A third repatriation convoy facilitated by UNHCR on Thursday took home some 520 Burundi refugees from camps in Ngara, western Tanzania, as more refugees signed up for voluntary return. More than 50,000 refugees living in camps along Tanzania's western border with Burundi have registered for the partially-assisted return programme which has so far aided nearly 1,500 refugees since it was started on March 28.
A few other refugees continue to return home from Tanzania using their own means. Some of the spontaneous returnees who spoke to UNHCR staff members in Muyinga, north-east Burundi, said that they arranged their own return because they wished to return home immediately and didn't want to wait for their turn on the weekly UNHCR-organised convoys.
More than 90 per cent of those who have registered to return are in Karago, Nduta and Mtendeli camps, all in Tanzania's Kigoma region. Many want to return to southern Burundi provinces such as Ruyigi and Makamba, but UNHCR is not aiding returns to these areas because of continuing security concerns.
A tripartite meeting last week between Burundi, Tanzania and UNHCR in Ngara, Tanzania, agreed that for the time being, returns would be facilitated only to Muyinga province in the north.
Some of the returnees on Thursday's convoy told UNHCR workers at Songore, a transit centre in northern Burundi, that their families had fled to Tanzania some three decades ago - in the wake of violence in the central African nation in 1972. Two returnees interviewed by UNHCR staff members said they were born in Tanzania in 1973 and were coming to Burundi for the first time. Others said they were recent refugees who had fled the continuing conflict in Burundi. A 29-year-old returnee teacher who fled in 2000 said he was anxious to regain his employment as a teacher and his unpaid salary.
The next convoy is scheduled for next Thursday.