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Thousands of refugees still awaiting repatriation

Delegates at a tripartite meeting of Burundi, Tanzania and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on 3 December in Bujumbura, Burundi.

At least 120,000 Burundian refugees have still to be repatriated from Tanzania, despite plans by the host government to close all refugee camps by mid-2008, officials said.

More than 40,000 Burundians returned home from Tanzania in 2007, home affairs minister Joseph Mungai told a meeting on 3 December in the Burundian capital of Bujumbura. The latest returns, the Tanzanian minister added, brought to 430,000 the total since 2001.

The Burundian minister for repatriation, Immaculée Nahayo, said most recent returnees came back between July and November.

The repatriation process, according to Bo Shack, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Burundi representative, would continue.

The returnees were encouraged to go back home by the introduction of cash grants, four to six months’ food rations, and the closure of secondary schools and winding-up of income-generating activities in the refugee camps.

A communiqué issued at the end of the meeting stated that refugee camps in Tanzania had been cut from 11 to five in 2007 - of which three hosted Burundian refugees in the northwest - in line with Tanzania's intention to "close camps by June 2008".

A study of settlements in Katumba, Mishamo and Ulyankulu in Tanzania had, however, found that only a few of the long-term Burundian refugees were willing to return home. The majority wanted Tanzanian citizenship.

"The results [of the study] indicate that 79 percent of refugees living on these settlements expressed their wish to remain in Tanzania and be naturalised; 21 percent indicated their wish to repatriate," ran the communiqué.

Photo: IRIN
Burundi refugees carrying their belongings over the border with Tanzania

The tripartite meeting called for more logistical capacity in Burundi and Tanzania to encourage repatriation, noting that a census of such refugees outside the camps in Kigoma region had already begun.

In addition, it was recommended that an ad hoc integrated committee on voluntary repatriation and reintegration in Burundi be set up, along with university scholarships for returnees and resettlement of landless people in new villages.

Tanzania was requested to extend the deadline for closure of the camps until November 2008, beginning with Lukole followed by Nduta camp.


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

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