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Burundian returnees trickle back slowly despite welcome from UNHCR

Burundian refugees chased away from Rwanda

Burundian refugees chased away from Rwanda

37,000 Burundians who fled during the recent crisis—including both registered and unregistered refugees—have now returned, according to UNHCR. But the government claims the number of returnees is closer to 156,000.

Abel Mbilinyi, the country representative of UNCHR in Burundi, says 138 Burundian refugees have expressed their desire to return from Lusenda camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The UNHCR has established a transit camp in Makamba province for them.

He says that in three southern provinces (Makamba, Rutana, and Rumonge) around 30,000 unregistered returnees and 7,000 refugees are now welcomed. However, he adds that the Burundi government considers all of these returnees refugees, even though they do not have the same identification.

On 15 June, Busoni Commune welcomed 82 Burundian refugees. Pierre Nkurikiye, the police spokesperson, claims they were chased out of Rwanda. In addition, he says, 18 Burundian refugees left Mahama camp in Rwanda to come back home.
Térence Ntahiraja, Assistant to and Spokesperson for the Ministry of Home Affairs, claims that 156,000 Burundians out of 260,000 refugees who have fled the country since April 2015 have now returned home. This contradicts the UNHCR’s warnings that the number of refugees is, in fact, rising rapidly.

Babar Baloch, s UNCHR spokesperson, says the total number of refugees is expected to grow to over half a million by the end of 2017 – making it potentially the third biggest refugee situation in Africa.

He also says that the UNHCR has updated its funding needs for the Burundi situation to US$250 million (from US$214).

According to the UNHCR, Tanzania is currently hosting the majority of Burundian refugees with some 249,000 already accommodated in three overcrowded camps. Rwanda hosts some 84,000 refugees with another 45,000 in Uganda and some 41,000 in the DRC. Since April 2015, some 410,000 refugees and asylum seekers have been forced to flee their homes.