Burundi in campaign to woo back refugees in Tanzania
By The EastAfrican
The Burundian government has started campaigns to lure refugees living in Tanzania to return home in bid to convince the international community that the country is safer.
Most of the refugees who have been staying in Tanzania fled the country in 2015 due to violence, after then President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a controversial third term.
Now, the administration of President Evariste Ndayishimiye says the Burundi is waiting for those who fled to return home and help with reconstruction work.
“We call on those who are still in the refugee camps to come back home and work towards building the country,” said Nestor Bimenyimana, director-general of Repatriation and Reintegration at Burundi Ministry of Internal affairs told The EastAfrican on Wednesday.
207,328 have returned
According to the Burundian government, since 2017 when the voluntary repatriation exercise started in co-operation with the UN Refugee agency, some 207,328 have returned to Burundi from 20 different countries in Africa. A majority of them — 14,5313 — came from Tanzania.
Since the beginning of 2023, about 550 more Burundians were repatriated from Tanzania (390), Rwanda (67) and Kenya (44), the official said.
In August 2017, representatives of Burundi and Tanzanian government along with UNHCR reached a tripartite deal to encourage free return of Burundian refugees from Tanzania.
The UNHCR Mandate for Voluntary Repatriation, as the deal is known, has been extended and modified to provide room for UNHCR to have jurisdiction in Burundi over those who return.
Last Saturday, UNHCR boss Filippo Grandi visited Tanzania and met President Samia Suluhu to discuss progress in the repatriation.
Grandi said that the UNHCR was committed to supporting refugees to return safely from countries of asylum, and their subsequent reintegration.
More than 200,000 Burundian refugees have been assisted by UNHCR to go back home voluntarily from neighbouring countries since the past five years.
Grandi also met with President Ndayishimiye focusing Burundi’s efforts towards stabilisation.
“We live in a world with only a few windows to pursue solutions for displacement. Too often, conflicts last for many years, but I am encouraged to see Burundian refugees making the choice to return after years in exile”, Grandi said.
“We all need to work to ensure that their repatriation is sustainable. The efforts from the government of Burundi and partners to assist Burundian refugees returning home are encouraging.”
About 248,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, mainly from Burundi and the DR Congo, live in Tanzania which hosts the largest number of Burundian refugees at a global level.
The European Union is currently providing $40.5 million to multiple partners supporting Burundian refugees in the East African region and those who have returned home to live in safety and dignity.
By Apolinari Tairo and Moses Havyarimana