- The last batch of some 400 Burundian refugees returned to their homeland after 37 years, ending one of the world’s longest-running refugee sagas, the United Nations has announced.
The refuges that left Tanzania today fled the eruption of ethnic violence which claimed the lives of an estimated 200,000 Burundian civilians in 1972.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said since March 2008, UNHCR has helped 53,500 Burundian refugees from the old settlements to repatriate under a joint programme with the Tanzanian government, which also saw some 162,000 of the 1972 refugees opting to apply for citizenship in their host nation.
“Tanzania has naturalised 29,000 of the refugees and expects to complete the process of the remaining 133,000 by the end of the year,” the official said.
Mr Mahecic said Tanzania also hosts Burundian refugees who fled their country in 1993, saying that all but one of the camps where 36,000 are sheltered has now been closed.
“With the gradual return of peace in Burundi, more than half a million Burundian refugees have returned home, including more than 430,000 from camps in Tanzania since 2004,” the UNHCR spokesman said.
Meanwhile over 20,000 Burundians, who fled their country in the 1990s, remain in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda, said Mr Mahecic.
In Burundi, UNHCR is assisting returnees with issues in reclaiming property by providing temporary shelter and supporting the peaceful resolution of land disputes arising from their long absence. In addition, the government and its “UN partners are also helping landless returnees settle in specially constructed villages, six of which have been opened in 2008 and 2009.”
At the peak of the crisis in Burundi in the 1990s, hundreds of thousands of people escaped clashes, sheltering in makeshift sites along the border with Tanzania.
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