UNHCR offers to lead Rwanda, Burundi dialogue on refugees

Saturday April 14 2018

UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi at the Congolese Gihembe refugee camp in northern Rwanda on April 8, 2018. AFP

UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi at the Congolese Gihembe refugee camp in northern Rwanda on April 8, 2018. He urged the international community to support not only the refugees but also the host countries. PHOTO | AFP  

By MOSES HAVYARIMANA
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The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has offered to lead dialogue between Rwanda and Burundi on the refugee situation.

When he visited Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza this week, UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi discussed issues related to refugees following a diplomatic row between Kigali and Bujumbura over the same.

Mr Grandi said that the UN would continue supporting the Burundian refugees who voluntarily want to return home.

“We will work to establish a better framework for discussion between Rwanda and Burundi. I spoke to President Paul Kagame and I am confident that we will have a more constructive engagement,” the UNHCR chief said.

Last week Burundi accused Kigali of holding Burundian refugees hostage and militarily training them to oust president Nkurunziza’s government, after more than 2,000 Burundian refugees were repatriated from Rwanda. Kigali dismissed the allegations.

Tanzania, Burundi and the UNHCR agreed to start a voluntary repatriation exercise of Burundian refugees from Tanzania.

According to the UNHCR, almost 20,000 refugees, with intentions of returning home have been registered. About 72,000 Burundian refugees have already expressed their wish to return to Burundi.

Despite the 2015 crisis that saw thousands of Burundians flee for neighbouring countries, Burundi continued to host Democratic Republic of Congo refugees.

Currently Burundi hosts at least 73,000 refugees from DRC. The UNHCR chief Grandi urged the international community to support not only the refugees but also the host countries.

In a joint a joint communique of the 20th meeting of the tripartite commission for the voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees in Tanzania, a plan of action was developed with the overall planning figure for 2018 that has already started.