The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will stay with returning Burundian refugees for some time to help them reintegrate, the agency's assistant High Commissioner, Kamel Morjane, has said.
He said this would be done in collaboration with the Burundian government and other agencies, the UNHCR reported on Monday.
Morjane is on a weeklong visit to Burundi and Tanzania to assess the situation for Burundian refugees going home after years of living in camps in western Tanzania. He completed his Burundi visit on Sunday and is currently in Tanzania.
UNHCR reported that Morjane had pledged the agency's commitment to a repatriation programme that could help 500,000 Burundian refugees return and reintegrate in the next three years.
Under the repatriation plan, the UNHCR aims to help 500,000 refugees return and reintegrate in Burundi between 2004 and 2006. In 2004 alone, the agency plans to facilitate the return of at least 150,000 refugees from Tanzania.
The numbers of Burundians returning home have increased lately, following the signing of a power-sharing agreement between the government and the major former rebel movement in the country.
"The refugee agency is expanding its presence in the country while more refugees have expressed a willingness to return amid the improved climate of security," UNHCR reported.
It said that while in Burundi, Morjane visited on Saturday the Gisuru transit centre in the eastern province of Ruyigi province, where he was quoted as saying: "We came to see for ourselves the situation in the camps in Tanzania, and in Burundi, at this crucial point in time when the history and future of this country - characterised by the obvious willingness of thousands of Burundians to return to their homes - are at a crossroads. We are here at this critical juncture to contribute to the successful outcome of this operation."
At the transit centre, Morjane welcomed a group of 557 returnees who had arrived from Tanzania.
The agency reported that he also held talks with the governor of Ruyigi, who underlined the poverty and urgent needs to be met for the returnees to reintegrate properly.
It said that of the 28,051 Burundian refugees who had left Tanzania since the beginning of 2004, some 20,300 had passed through Gisuru, a new border crossing opened in January.
In Tanzania, Morjane visited several refugee camps near the border with Burundi, including Mtendeli, Kanembwa and Mtabila camps for Burundian refugees, and Nyarugufu Camp for Congolese refugees.
UNHCR reported that Morjane's mission ends on Wednesday.
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: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions