BUJUMBURA October 25th (ABP) – The Director General of Repatriation, Resettlement and Reintegration of Returnees Mr. Nestor Bimenyimana indicated, during a meeting organized by the Burundi Red Cross for its partners, that the reluctance manifests itself as a challenge in terms of the voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees.
In a presentation he made on the state of play and the role of actors in repatriation and socio-economic reintegration, Mr. Bimenyimana recalled that in 2015, Burundi experienced security inconveniences which caused movements of certain citizens to other countries in the region and elsewhere. Since 2017, thanks to the considerable efforts made by the authorities, the repatriation of Burundian refugees from countries of asylum has been a reality.
In collaboration with its partners, led by the UNHCR, the government of Burundi has pulled out all the stops to create favorable conditions to welcome its sons and daughters who, by their own will, wish to return to their homeland. In the return zone, they are initially received in transit centers for legal formalities in accordance with international regulations relating to the protection of refugees.
Regarding the statistics of refugees in asylums until December 31, 2022, he said that in Tanzania there were 126,241, in Rwanda 48,367, in the DRC 45,297, in Uganda 40,630, in Kenya 8,087 to total 266 468 refugees. From January 1, 2023 to October 22, 2023, they repatriated 872 refugees from those neighboring countries while specifying that there are also other Burundian refugees in other countries far away.
Regarding the challenges recorded, he cited the COVID-19 pandemic which meant that planning numbers could not be reached and the refusal of Burundian refugees to return home despite voluntary return awareness broadcasts, to respect the humanitarian aspect. He asked partners to help the ministry raise awareness among those refugees.
In the area of reintegration of returnees, Mr. Bimenyimana said that the reintegration of returnees in Burundi begins as soon as they arrive in the transit centers, with all the welcome ceremonies including messages from all partners on the lifestyle they begin. The reintegration continues in their respective communities and in their host families, adding that the properties, houses, belongings of the returnees have been guarded in accordance with the instruction of the Head of State since 2015.
According to Mr. Bimenyimana, there is a budget line called “Support for the repatriation process” in the general state budget. Activities aimed at reintegration, such as raising awareness of social cohesion and peaceful cohabitation, have been carried out in the communities of great return and remain relevant.
As part of local solidarity, many actions are carried out to strengthen social cohesion between returnees and host communities. However, he noted the challenge of limited resources as social reintegration is a multi-sectoral process that encompasses several phases of development, explaining that repatriation alone is not enough. Mr. Bimenyimana also spoke about the problem of registration of spontaneous returnees which hinders their reintegration and sometimes, they are doomed to return to exile.
He took the opportunity to propose certain recommendations such as making decent shelters available to returnees and host communities, integrating them into the villagization policy to free up arable land, setting up basic social infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and others, modernize agriculture for economic resilience, in short, ensure inclusive, effective and sustainable reintegration.
He invited the Red Cross partners who were present to intervene in the reintegration process of the returnees. He did not forget to point out that the repatriation process will move from the facilitation phase to the promotion phase, reintegration must be substantial and a mitigation plan will be put in place.