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Tripartite meeting on refugees begins in Bujumbura

A meeting among the governments of Burundi and Tanzania and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) began on Monday in the capital, Bujumbura, with the Burundian delegates reporting that the government was satisfied with the repatriation of refugees living in Tanzania. The meeting heard that an estimated 53,000 refugees have so far been repatriated to Burundi in 2003, and that 45,000 others returned on their own. The two-day meeting is the eighth tripartite meeting among the parties. Among other matters, the delegates are expected to discuss the opening of more entry posts on the Burundian-Tanzanian border, particularly entry posts along Lake Tanganyika. The head of delegation and permanent secretary in the Tanzanian Ministry of Home Affairs, B.S. Bihomvu, said his country would facilitate the repatriation by allowing refugees to depart from Kigoma for Bujumbura via Lake Tanganyika. Voluntary repatriation of the refugees is normally through Kobero border post in Burundi's Muyinga Province. Bihomvu reiterated the government's position that Tanzania has no interest in keeping Burundi refugees on its soil. The issue of refugees who left Burundi decades ago was another point of discussion at the meeting. UNHCR Representative to Burundi Stefano Severe said experience had shown that the repatriation and rehabilitation of such refugees was difficult, and depended on the length of time the refugee had spent outside the country. He added that the issue should be considered in all its complexity. The repatriation of refugees who left the country a long time ago has in the past raised land concerns, especially in the southern region of Rumonge. Returnees whose parents died outside Burundi often did not know their place of origin.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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