Congolese refugees living in Burundi reluctant to repatriate

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By GLV Correspondent.

Four months after the start of a campaign of voluntary repatriation of Congolese refugees on Burundian soil, part of Congolese refugees camps and Musasa Gasorwe respectively in the provinces of Ngozi and Muyinga in the north, are still opposed to return to their country.

Congolese refugees in Burundi expressed their reluctance to the UNHCR Representative in Burundi, Ms. Clementine Nkweta Salami, during her visit to these camps to sensitize refugees to be registered for voluntary repatriation.

The repatriation is a part of tripartite agreement signed between Burundi government, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for the voluntary repatriation of refugees in both countries.

These refugees say they fear for their safety once they return to their country of origin, which they fled during the height of the civil war, more than ten years ago for some.

The refugees would prefer to be reinstated locally (or naturalized) in Burundi, or relocated to a third country for resettlement. The insist that returning to the Congo is out of the question.

According to the UNHCR Representative in Burundi, local integration or naturalization remains a solution to those opposed to voluntary repatriation, but requires prior arrangements with the governments concerned and enough living space, as was the case with Burundians who sought refuge in Tanzania.

“Burundians were naturalized in Tanzania only after discussions with the Tanzanian government have estimated that the refugees had spent much time with each other and they had enough space to accommodate this population.”

Congolese government and UNHCR representative in Burundi indicated that the process of voluntary repatriation will affect all Congolese refugees who are in Tanzania, Burundi, Zambia and Congo Brazzaville.
In Burundi, the voluntary repatriation of Congolese refugees on Burundian soil began in October last year following the agreements signed between the two countries and the UNHCR.

More than six thousand have already been repatriated of the forty thousand Congolese refugees and asylum seekers alike from the statistical office of the UNHCR in Burundi.

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