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UNHCR's Grandi lauds progress in Burundian refugee returns, urges more support

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UNHCR's Grandi lauds progress in Burundian refugee returns, urges more support

10 February 2023
Burundi. UNHCR's Grandi lauds progress in Burundian refugee returns, urges more support
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi (centre), visits a former refugee family in Cibitoke, Burundi, that received materials from UNHCR to rebuild their house after returning home.

Bujumbura (Burundi) and Dodoma (Tanzania) - As conditions in Burundi improve, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, has emphasized UNHCR’s commitment to supporting refugees to return safely from countries of asylum, and their subsequent reintegration.

More than 200,000 Burundian refugees have been assisted by UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency, to return voluntarily from neighbouring countries since 2017.

Wrapping up a two-day visit to the country, Grandi also expressed appreciation to President Evariste Ndayishime for Burundi’s efforts towards stabilization.

“We live in a world with only a few windows to pursue solutions for displacement. Too often, conflicts last for many years, but I am encouraged to see Burundian refugees making the choice to return after years in exile. We all need to work to ensure that their repatriation is sustainable,” said Grandi. “The efforts from the Government of Burundi and partners to assist Burundian refugees returning home are encouraging.”

Grandi visited the Rugombo area, where he met some of those who have recently returned and witnessed UNHCR’s and partners’ support for returnees as they rebuild their lives. Assistance includes transportation, food, a cash grant, and household items when they return to Burundi. Given the magnitude of the needs, UNHCR has decided to strengthen its support to returnees.

“However, we need development actors to help improve access to services and livelihoods in the communities where they are returning, which also need support. These are citizens of Burundi that need to be integrated into national development plans and initiatives,” Grandi added.

Burundi is also generously hosting 80,000 Congolese refugees. Grandi visited Cishemere transit center, in the northwest of the country bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where he met refugees fleeing brutal violence and attacks in Eastern DRC.

From Burundi, Grandi flew to Dodoma, Tanzania to meet President Samia Suluhu Hassan. Among the issues discussed was the progress made in creating conditions in Burundi more conducive for refugee return. Grandi also welcomed Tanzania’s long tradition of welcoming refugees and advocated for continued efforts to address the needs of those fleeing conflict.

Nearly 248,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, mainly from Burundi and the DRC, live in Tanzania. The country hosts the largest number of Burundian refugees globally.

“Our teams will continue to work closely with the two Governments, partners, and donors, including development actors, to protect and find solutions for those displaced,” said Grandi.

In this context, UNHCR welcomes the recent announcement by the European Union to generously provide €40 million over the coming years to multiple partners supporting solutions in Burundi. The funding will ensure Burundian refugees in the region, as well as those who have returned home, have the support they need to live in safety and dignity. Assistance will include support for protection and resilience, legal assistance, gender-based violence prevention and response, literacy, and agricultural activities.

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