Nearly 600 Burundian Refugees Head Home as Mass Repatriation Starts

Burundian refugees sit on their belongings at the Lake Tanganyika stadium in Kigoma western Tanzania, May 19, 2015. PHOTO | REUTERS

October 4, 2019//-Nearly 600 refugees left Tanzania to return to their homes in neighbouring Burundi on Thursday, the United Nations said – the first batch in a mass repatriation that some migrants fear could force them back against their will.

Hundreds of thousands of Burundians fled a surge of political violence in 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a third disputed term in office and opponents accused him of breaching the constitution.

A UN Commission on Burundi reported last month that there was risk of a fresh wave of atrocities as the landlocked state approached a 2020 election with its political crisis unresolved.

But Burundi and Tanzania agreed in August to start repatriating 200,000 refugees, saying that conditions in Burundi had improved.

A Tanzanian government official and the United Nations said all of Thursday’s returns had been voluntary.

“All refugees who had registered to return home voluntarily from all camps gathered at Nduta camp and departed from there,” said Athuman Igwe, responsible for coordinating refugees affairs in Kigoma, western Tanzania.


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