The return comes after Rwanda has made it clear that it was not against the repatriation of Burundian refugees who have been in Rwanda since 2015. It was agreed by the three parties that the UNHCR will facilitate the process.
According to Elise Villechalane, the UNHCR spokesperson for Rwanda, the first batch will depart in just over a week. A hotline was set up for refugees to voluntarily call and express the desire to return home and they are added on the list.
“We have put in place a hotline that Refugee can call and express their wish to return and they can also approach directly UNHCR staff who are everyday in the field,”
“Only those who voluntarily and individually express their wish to return will be considered for voluntary repatriation,” Villechalane said.
“Once we have the list of people who would like to return, then we will organize together with UNHCR, Burundi and the Rwandan government and their transport and once in Burundi, they will be welcomed,” Villechalane added.
When in Burundi, the refugees will go through the transit centre for registration and get also their integration package, which will include a lumpsum for their transportation to their area of return while UNHCR will continue monitoring other resettlement processes.
Following the meeting in Kigali, the Burundian officials said the government needed to prepare locations where the refugees will be received.
Rwanda is currently the third country with the largest number of Burundian refugees, with about 72,000; it comes right after Tanzania and DR Congo. Many of these fled the 2015 political turmoil that gripped the country after the late President Nkurunziza decided to extend his mandate.
UNHCR counts more than 430,000 Burundian refugees in: Tanzania (164,873), DR Congo (103,690), Rwanda (72,007), Uganda (48,275), Kenya (13,800), Mozambique (7,800), Malawi (8,300), South Africa (9,200) and Zambia (6,000) by the end of June 2020.