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Burundi: returns from Tanzania

Briefing notes

Burundi: returns from Tanzania

28 May 2002

UNHCR officials say operations to repatriate Burundi refugees from Tanzania are proceeding smoothly and that so far this year more than 10,000 have returned home under the facilitated initiative that began on March 28.

To help refugees who want to return, UNHCR is organising two convoys a week from the Tanzanian side of their joint border. Latest figures including today's 474 returnees indicate that more than 10,900 Burundians who fled civil war and ethnic conflict in their country have now returned home. Another 71,000 have registered to return in future convoys. Another convoy on Thursday will repatriate some 800 additional refugees.

Officials say most of the returnees come from the sprawling Ngara camp, but that since the end of April growing numbers of returnees were also coming from Kibondo and Kasulu camps. All UNHCR-facilitated returns take place through the Kobero entry point, in the province of Muyinga (north-eastern Burundi). We are only facilitating the return of refugees to provinces in northern and central Burundi, as well as to Bujumbura. However, some Burundians decide themselves to go back to other areas of the country.

Burundians who return with the facilitated convoys are transported to transit centres where they receive a returnee package including three months of WFP food aid and non-food items. They are then transported to their communes of origin. Since April 2002, Burundians going home outside of the UNHCR-facilitated programme and who hand back their ration card are also given the three-month returnee package. Vulnerable persons and unaccompanied children receive special assistance.

Monitoring activities have been conducted in the communes that have received the largest number of returnees, Muyinga (Muyinga province) and Giteranyi (Kirundo province). Interviews with 53 families indicated so far that 98 percent of them find the security situation good, that 96 percent had access to their land, and that 87 percent said they had good relationships with their neighbours and the authorities.

An estimated 400,000 Burundians are exiled in Tanzania, some having lived abroad for 30 years. The number of spontaneous returns outside UNHCR's facilitated programme is estimated at more than 9,300 Burundians, bringing to nearly 20,000 the number of returnees to date.