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Burundi: returns from Tanzania limited to north

Briefing notes

Burundi: returns from Tanzania limited to north

9 April 2002

UNHCR, Tanzania and Burundi have agreed to limit organised Burundi refugee returns to the relatively stable northern provinces of Burundi. Repatriation to the southern provinces of Ruyigi and Makamba will remain on hold due to the prevailing insecurity in these regions. The decision was taken last week during a meeting in Ngara, Tanzania.

Refugees from the northern provinces, which are considered more secure, are entitled to transportation and reintegration assistance provided by UNHCR under the repatriation programme which started on March 28.

So far nearly 900 refugees have returned in three groups. More than 50,000 Burundian refugees living in refugee camps in western Tanzania have signed up for voluntary repatriation since the registration of potential returnees started in early February.

Returnees receive food and a reintegration package once they have reached a transit centre in Burundi, before departing for their area of origin. Over 80 percent of the returnees so far originate from Muyinga, Ngozi and Kirundo. Returns are expected to continue with one convoy of about 500 refugees each week.

A total of 354,000 Burundian refugees are hosted in seven UNHCR-run camps in western Tanzania. The government estimates that roughly 470,000 others live in either old refugee settlements or in Tanzanian villages.

Last year, some 27,000 Burundians returned home to Burundi, most of them of their own accord.

UNHCR insists that the return of refugees take place under an arrangement that guarantees safety and dignity, and that the return be voluntary.