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Burundi: Returns from Tanzania increase dramatically

Briefing notes

Burundi: Returns from Tanzania increase dramatically

12 August 2005

We are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of Burundian refugees returning home from camps in Tanzania - an expression of their confidence that peace has now come to Burundi for good. The refugees tell us that orderly communal elections at the end of June - nearly the last step in a long transition to peace and democracy - gave them the confidence to return home after up to nine years in exile.

Whereas in June and July the number of Burundians coming home to the south of the country was in the range of 600 to 800 a week, last week alone we helped more than 4,200 (3,600 from Tanzania and 600 from Rwanda) come home to three southern provinces. In August, we estimate the number returning to these areas on UNHCR convoys from Tanzania will total 20,000 - a more than six-fold increase over the 3,116 who came home in June. Because of increased demand by Burundians to leave Ngara, Kasulu and Kibondo camps in western Tanzania, we have increased the number of convoys and are now running three convoys a week from Ngara and two a week from each of the other two camps.

UNHCR is not actively promoting return to Burundi, but we do help any refugees who want to go home voluntarily. Refugees get transportation from the Tanzanian camps back to their home villages. Once back in Burundi they are given goods to help them restart their life including a three-month supply of food, as well as plastic sheeting, mats, blankets, cloth, sanitary materials, kitchen sets, jerry cans, soap and a hoe, since most of them are farmers. We are also building schools and providing roofing materials for individual returnee houses, and funding other projects to help the local community absorb the returning refugees.

Since 2002, more than 250,000 Burundian refugees have gone home, mainly from Tanzania. There are still some 238,000 Burundian refugees in Tanzanian camps, and another 198,000 living in settlements in the west of the country.