Tanzania, Burundi and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have agreed to start voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees from Tanzania on April 5.
UNHCR said that more than 20,000 refugees have registered to return to Burundi in the programme that targets at least 72,000 Burundians.
Burundi’s Home Affairs Assistant Minister Therence Ntahiraja told The EastAfrican that the government was ready to accommodate the returnees.
“The country is ready to welcome all the refugees who wish to return. We have already expressed our position on this. The doors are open to all Burundians who wish to return,” he said.
In a joint statement after the 20th meeting of the Tripartite Commission for the Voluntary Repatriation of Burundian Refugees in Tanzania, a plan of action was developed, targeting to move two batches of 1,000 refugees each per week between April 5 and December 31.
The tripartite report was adopted last Wednesday in the Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura
According to UNHCR, by March 22, at least 20,739 Burundian refugees from Tanzania were repatriated.
“While some refugees may opt to return now, others may still have well founded reasons for not seeking to return at the present time and will continue to be in need of international protection,” reads the statement.
The tripartite commission noted that the repatriation exercise, which commenced on September 7 last year, had been successful and even exceeded the target.
Tanzania currently hosts more than three million refugees and asylum seekers, out of which 274,455 are Burundians.
In September last year, more than 30 Burundian refugees were allegedly killed by Congolese security forces who opened fire on a crowd of protesting refugees in the South Kivu.
Reports indicated that more than 100 Burundian refugees were injured in the same incident. Last year, according to the UNHCR, Kamanyola in South Kivu hosted 2005 refugees and asylum seekers from Burundi.
In early March, at least 2,500 Burundian refugees living in South Kivu in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo crossed the border into Rwanda, citing lack of food and security in their different locations.