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Burundi: return details

Briefing notes

Burundi: return details

3 May 2002

More than 5,000 Burundian refugees have returned home from camps in western Tanzania since March 28 when UNHCR began organising convoys to facilitate their return. Already nearly 60,000 refugees living in camps in Tanzania's Ngara, Kibondo and Kasulu provinces have registered, representing more than 16 per cent of the Burundi refugee population living in camps in Tanzania.

Since late March, UNHCR has maintained a policy to assist returns only to the north of Burundi due to continuing concerns for security in areas such as Ruyigi and Makamba provinces where the majority of the registered refugees would like to return. We're not yet promoting return to Burundi, but as in other not wholly secure countries, such as Afghanistan, we are helping those refugees who have themselves decided to repatriate.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, UNHCR convoys take an average of 500 returnees from the town of Ngara, in north-west Tanzania, to the Kobero border crossing, some 65 km away. Returnees disembark here and board other trucks on the Burundi side of the border. From Kobero, they are driven to the Songore transit centre in Muyinga province, Burundi, nearly 50 km away. Those returning to villages close to the transit centre are taken home immediately, while Burundians repatriating to outlying areas of the province spend a night at the transit facility before they are transported to their communes the following day.

Tanzania is host to the largest number of refugees in Africa. It is home to nearly 540,000 refugees from Burundi, of whom nearly 370,000 are assisted by UNHCR. The East African country also shelters some 110,000 Congolese (DRC) refugees and nearly 30,000 Rwandans.