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» 01.03.2010 - Burundi opposition fields woman candidate for elections
» 22.01.2010 - Legislators discuss common market protocol in Burundi
» 11.12.2009 - Burundi faces funding shortfall for elections
» 30.10.2009 - Last Burundian refugees repatriated
» 16.10.2009 - HRW calls on Burundi to halt deportation of refugees
» 02.10.2009 - US awards contract for the construction of new embassy in Burundi
» 30.07.2009 - SA formally withdraws from Burundi
» 14.05.2009 - Over 200 political prisoners in Burundi released

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350,000 Burundian refugees return home

afrol News, 17 August - The total number of Burundian assisted by the UNHCR to return home over the past five years has gone beyond the 350,000 mark on Tuesday when 1,500 refugees crossed the border with Tanzania and arrived at the UNHCR transit centres.

Under the agency’s biggest repatriation programmes in Africa some 270,000 Burundian refugees have returned home on buses and trucks. The body has also assisted 80,000 to return to Burundi on their own.

Tens of thousands of returnees have been helped with funds covering housing schemes, legal assistance programmes and the reconstruction of clinics and health centres.

The introduction of a cash grant of US $45 to each returnee to help them get started once back in Burundi has helped increased the returnee population.

Also, the UN food body, World Food Programme planned to raise the food assistance to returnees from a four-month pack to supplies to six months. The increased food packages and the cash grant would help boost repatriation figures, which is why UN officials have called for donor support to support the packages.

A total of 12,300 Burundian refugees have returned home this year - over 8,000 in July alone. UNHCR targets to repatriate 65,000 refugees [including 60,000 in Tanzania] this year. Thousands of Burundian refugees are also in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The latest returned were given the first instalment of the UNHCR cash grant, blankets, jerry cans, plastic sheeting, tools and seeds as well as received food packages from WFP. Before travelling to their home villages, the returnees underwent health screening.

The repatriation of Burundian refugees by the UNHCR started in April 2002 following the improvement of security situation in the country. But many returnees find it hard to cope with life back home in a country whose infrastructure and services have been devastated by war.

A joint study on the situation of returnees in 10 provinces by UNHCR and WFP published in March discovered that the returnees did not regret returning home. Most returnees had complained about lack of food, health care, access to land and bad shelter.

UNHCR officials have been overwhelmed by the help and encouragement given by the local communities to the returnees most of who have been on exile for 14 years.

However, many returnees continue to be challenged by extreme poverty.

It is against this background that more than 50,000 houses have been built for vulnerable returnee families by the UNHCR since 2003. At least 6,750 more such houses are expected to be complete before the year ends.

The agency has also rehabilitated 13 health centres, build or renovated 500 classrooms in areas of return between 2002 and 2006.

In 2002, over 500,000 Burundian refugees lived in 10 camps in Tanzania, but this figure now stand at 150,000. About 200,000 refugees live in settlements outside the camps.

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