At the end of his two-day visit to Burundi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi welcomed the progress made in helping refugees find long-term solutions in the heart of the Great Lakes region in Africa.
Filippo Grandi noted that, in a region marked by violence and complex conflicts that generate forced displacement, he was encouraged by the attention paid to finding durable solutions for refugees, especially Burundians.
Since 2017, at least 145,000 Burundian refugees have received return assistance, including more than 25,000 who have returned from Rwanda in recent months. Each week, an average of 2,000 people received assistance for their voluntary return from Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania.
The High Commissioner took part in the very last repatriation convoy from Rwanda thanks to 159 Burundian refugees who were able to return to their country after years of living in exile. He spoke to families who described their joy in returning home while being aware of the challenges that lie ahead.
Filippo Grandi reiterated UNHCR’s commitment to continue to facilitate the repatriation of Burundian refugees who have made the informed choice of voluntary return.
“The return of the refugees places a heavy responsibility on the government, in particular to guarantee security in the areas of return,” said Filippo Grandi. “The reintegration of returnees must include access to property and services, and the ability to support themselves and their families. Without it, returnees could again be forced to leave their homes. “
During his visit, the High Commissioner was received by President Évariste Ndayishimiye. They discussed the importance of continuing to pass return conditions in safety and dignity for refugees.
In addition, they agreed that accumulated support must be given to the generally poor communities to which the refugees are returning, with a view to successful reintegration.
Last February, UNHCR with the government of Burundi and 19 partners launched the Joint Plan for Refugee Assistance for Return and Reintegration, which has appealed for funds from the international community amounting to 104 , $ 3 million to support returnees and returning communities.
To date, less than 10 percent of the funds needed for reintegration support in Burundi have been received, despite the growing number of returning refugees from countries in the region.
The High Commissioner also thanked Burundi for its longstanding hospitality towards 80,000 Congolese refugees, despite the many social and economic challenges facing the country. He called for increased support from the international community to improve conditions in the refugee camps where they are accommodated.
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