Time not yet right to return to Burundi, say refugees in DRC

The United Nation Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees visited the Burundian refugees’ camp of Lusenda, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), on 24 August. She hoped to hear from refugees how they wished to return to Burundi. Instead, the refugees said that the insecurity that led them to flee persists.

Lusenda refugees’ camp

Lusenda refugees’ camp

During her visit to the Burundi refugee camp of Lusenda, in DRC, Kelly T. Clements, UNHCR Deputy Commissioner, asked Burundian refugees to express their wishes about their return to Burundi. The majority said they want to stay in the camp, according to Emmanuel Ntirampeba, the representative of the Burundian refugees in Lusenda Camp.

Refugees said violence that led them to flee continues. “The security situation in Burundi is not improving. It is not the right time for refugees to return to Burundi since people continue to be killed in various parts of the country,” said Ntirampeba. “Our return to the country will be on the restoration of peace and security,” he said.

Burundian refugees call for improving living conditions

Ntirampeba said the Burundi refugees had an opportunity to express the challenges they are facing in the camp.

He said they asked the UNHC Deputy Commissioner to improve the living conditions of the refugees in Lusenda camp, such as by increasing food quantity. “We also asked her to put on a clinic inside the camp so that patients would no longer be transported to hospitals outside the camp,” Ntirampebe said.

He also said the refugees asked her to support humanitarian organizations that provide food, housing necessities and medicine for refugees. The UNHCR Deputy Commissioner said that their problems will soon be resolved. “But she did not tell us when we will get what we asked her,” Ntirampeba said.

Since the start of 2017, the Burundian government has amplified its calls for refugees to return home. After two years of crisis in which over 1,400 peopled are estimated to have been killed, the government insists the nation is now safe. Bujumbura’s appeals have convinced only 70 out of more than 3,000 Burundian refugees to be voluntarily repatriated from Lusenda to Burundi.

Lusenda Camp is located in south of Kivu Province. UNHCR says more than 400,000 Burundian refugees are still in other countries in the region, namely Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania.

In May, The Ministry of interior in Burundi said the government is processing the repatriation of refugees from the Nduta camp in Tanzania. This reaction came after refugees staged a protest in front of UN refugee Agency’s offices in Nduta, Tanzania. They wanted to be repatriated to Burundi immediately.