Dar es Salaam. A total of 37,000 Burundian refugees have voluntarily repatriated to their country from Tanzania from January to September, this year, bringing the total to 48,930 who have returned home voluntarily since September 2017.
According to a March 2018 report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the move follows a meeting between Tanzania, Burundi and UNHCR which produced a work plan entailing the repatriation of approximately 2,000 refugees per week from April 5, to 31 December 2018.
It was planned that 72,000 Burundian refugees were expected to be repatriated to their country from Tanzania by December as set by a tripartite meeting on voluntary repatriation in March, although Burundian officials said it would be hard to reach the target.
The highest peak was recorded in May, this year, where more than 6,000 Burundian refugees returned home, followed by July, August and June.
Many returnees were originating from Muyinga, Ruyigi, Cankuzo, Makamba and Rutana provinces.
UNHCR has been quoted as saying it has failed to repatriate 2,000 refugees per week due to the insufficiency of logistical equipment as sometimes it was forced to repatriate between 1,000 and 2,000 refugees or even less than 1,000 refugees per week. However, the UNHCR report has revealed that 70 per cent of returnees had only one meal per day, 33 per cent of returnees found their agriculture land temporarily occupied by others including family members, while 79 per cent of primary school children were not in school.
It was also found that 72 per cent of the returnees did not have birth certificates and 73 per cent did not have National Identity Cards while 29 per cent of them were without access to the health system, many due to financial problems.
UNHCR says in order to make this exercise successful, additional funding is needed.
to increase the capacity of transit centres, hire safe transportation, address critical staffing shortages, continue to provide modest return packages, and improve the returnee monitoring framework in Burundi.
SUMMARY: A total of 37,000 Burundian refugees have been voluntarily repatriated from Tanzania from January to September this year. They are among 70,000 refugees who were planned to be repatriated this year. However, this is just half of the refugees who were planned to be repatriated this year in accordance with the Tripartite meeting between Tanzania, Burundi and UNHCR in March this year.