A petition signed by three hundred refugees from the Mahama camp was addressed to the President of Burundi, Evariste Ndayishimiye, on Monday asking both countries and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to help them return.
A statement issued by the Ministry of in charge of Emergency Management said that Rwanda,which is currently hosting about 150, 000 refugees from Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is ready to facilitate refugees willing to a return to their countries of origin.
“Rwanda reaffirms the principle of voluntary repatriation as a durable solution for refugees, in accordance with international and Rwandan law,”
“Rwanda reiterates its commitment to the protection of refugees on its territory, and stands ready to facilitate the safe and dignified return of those refugees who choose to repatriate, in collaboration with UNHCR and relevant governments,” statement said.
However, not all the Burundian refugees in Rwanda, which are about 72, 000, have expressed willingness to return, with one section saying that the conditions are not yet convincing, despite the country’s new President Maj. Gen Evariste Ndayishimiye declaring, upon taking office in June, that doors were open for refugees to freely return.
Majority of the refugees fled the country following the political crisis that gripped Burundi in 2015 when the then President, the late Pierre Nkurunziza decided to seek a third term, leading to countrywide protests as people opposed the move.
In their letter, the refugees said that there is hope for security under President Ndayishimiye’s rule, following his promise that there will not be any revenge exerted upon political opponents.
“Your Excellency, the President of the Republic of Burundi, we request you to repatriate us with dignity and legality as your children. We request you to initiate a dialogue between Burundi, the UNHCR and Rwanda so that we enjoy our right to return to our dear homeland with dignity,” the letter dated July 26, 2020, reads.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) confirmed it received information on the petition, with the United Nation’s body charged with refugees reiterating that it will facilitate those who wish to voluntarily return.