UNHCR: Burundi conditions not yet conducive to promote returns.

JUST days after Home Affairs Minister Kangi Lugola and his Burundian counterpart Pascal Barandagiye inked an agreement for the repatriation of refugees; the UN refugees agency has said conditions are not yet conducive for returns.


The ministers signed the pact in Kigoma at the weekend for the repatriation of 2000 refugees every week beginning October 1. The refugees to be returned home are those who are currently hosted at the Nduta and Mtendeli camps.

But the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) yesterday released a statement urging authorities in Tanzania and Burundi to ensure that international laws safeguarding the rights of refugees are not violated in the process.

“While overall security has improved, UNHCR is of the opinion that conditions in Burundi are not currently conducive to promote returns,” the statement affirms.

The agency noted that that it is assisting refugees who indicate they have made a free and informed choice to voluntarily return, pointing out that nearly 75,000 refugees have returned to Burundi since September 2017. “Those who decided to leave cited the wish to return to their houses and farms, and to reunite with family,” it said.

“We call upon the commitment of the governments of Tanzania and Burundi to uphold international obligations and ensure that any returns are voluntary in line with the tripartite agreement signed in March of 2018. UNHCR urges States to ensure that no refugee is returned to Burundi against their will, and that measures are taken to make conditions in Burundi more conducive for refugee returns, including confidence building efforts and incentives for those who have chosen to go home.”

UNHCR underlined that in the meantime, hundreds still flee Burundi each month, urging governments in the region to maintain open borders and access to asylum for those who need it, as well as appeal for funding to assist the more than 400,000 refugees who remain in exile and to assist and reintegrate refugees who have chosen to return and those expected to voluntarily return this year.

Speaking during the signing of the pact, Lugola accused unnamed international organizations of frustrating the voluntary repatriation programme.

“We have information that there are individuals and international organizations telling refugees that there is no peace in Burundi. This is not true; the country is peaceful and the refugees should return back there,” he said.

He then went ahead to order immediate investigation to identify, arrest and prosecute all those who sabotage the exercise.

The minister said the refugees are wanted back home by their government and the government of Tanzania has the obligation to ensure that they return home to build their country

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