Tanzania: cross-border contacts and information exchanges for Burundians
More than 16,000 Burundian refugees living in camps in western Tanzania have signed up for voluntary repatriation since the start of a registration exercise in the refugee camps in early February. The refugees have registered mainly to return to the communes of Makamba in southern Burundi and Ruyigi to the east. The exercise follows an agreement reached between UNHCR and the governments of Burundi and Tanzania at a tripartite meeting held in mid-January. During this meeting, UNHCR agreed to facilitate the return of Burundian refugees who had returned home spontaneously, walking long distances, sometimes, through areas of conflict. Some were harassed on the way home. UNHCR will now transport the returnees to transit centres being established inside Burundi and will also provide food and basic domestic supplies. The returns are expected to begin in the coming weeks.
In a related development, a group of about 20 Burundi refugees from the camps in western Tanzania are on a go-and-see visit in Burundi. They arrived in Burundi on 9 March and spent two days visiting their home communes. On Monday, 11 March, the group participated in a session of the Burundian National Assembly and are also expected to work with UNHCR in Burundi in drawing up a detailed plan for organised repatriation, when conditions allow. Their visit is part of intensified cross-border contacts and information exchanges that have been organised since the mid-January tripartite meeting to help refugees to make informed decisions about their return home.
Since the installation of the Transitional Government in Bujumbura in November last year, there has been increased interest for repatriation among the more than 350,000 Burundian refugees assisted by UNHCR in seven refugee camps in Tanzania. UNHCR is, however, not yet promoting organised repatriation to Burundi, due to the prevailing insecurity inside the central African nation.