The Burundian government has said it needs two weeks to prepare for the first batch of five-year-old refugees who have fled to Rwanda for political reasons.
The decision was announced at a meeting on August 13, 2020, which brought together Rwandan and Burundian delegates and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to learn how to resettle Burundian refugees. located in Rwanda.
On July 26, 2020, 331 refugees in the Mahama Camp wrote to the President of Burundi, Gen Ndayishimiye Evariste, requesting his voluntary return as the reason for their escape was no longer available.
After the letter went abroad, the Rwandan government expressed its readiness to help refugees who want to return, as they have done since the Burundi crisis began in 2015.
“Rwanda supports the principle of voluntary repatriation, as required by international and Rwandan law,” the Ministry of Emergency Situations said at the time.
It was on Thursday that the two sides discussed the issue, at a meeting held using video technology to prevent Coronavirus.
The decision was that the first batch of Burundian refugees in Rwanda who want to return will return to their country in two weeks.
UNHCR spokesperson for Rwanda, Elise Villechalane, told the BBC that the meeting was the first to be approved for resettlement.
“Because the Burundian side needs two weeks to prepare the venue for the reception, they have decided that the first round will take place on August 27,” he said.
Rwanda has informed all Burundian refugees that anyone wishing to return ‘individually and voluntarily should contact UNHCR for assistance.’
“We, as HCR, are ready to help anyone who wants to come back, and we are happy that both sides are sitting today and understanding how to get them back, and now the first ones will be gone in two weeks,” he said.
The UNHCR branch in Rwanda estimates that before the COVID outbreak — there were 200 refugees who returned monthly and voluntarily.
Since the end of March 2015, Burundian refugees have begun to enter Rwanda, setting up temporary camps in Gashora and Nyanza before being relocated to Mahama in Kirehe District, the rest remaining in Kigali and Huye Towns.
The Burundians fled after the election turmoil that was to be attended by Pierre Nkurunziza, yet he was accused of ending his two-term term in office, but he campaigned and won the election.
There are 72,007 Burundian refugees in Rwanda. UNCHR statistics as of June 30, 2020 show that the total number of Burundian refugees in the region is about 333,737.
The UNHCR Burundi branch says that since the beginning of this year, nearly 8,500 refugees have returned from Tanzania, with the exception of one from Zambia.
Burundian refugees in Mahama camp who want to return voluntarily start receiving in Burundi in two weeks