Tanzania intends to deport up to 200,000 refugees from Burundi in coming months. Burundi agreed to the plan, but the UN’s refugee agency has objected, insisting on voluntary, but not forced returns.
Nearly 600 Burundian refugees were repatriated on October 3. They make up the first large group as part of a mass repatriation operation that began this week.
Nestor Bimenyimana, Burundi’s general manager for repatriation, said the refugees are returning voluntarily because the country’s security and political conditions have improved dramatically, less than a year before the country’s May 2020 presidential election.
The speaker for the Burundian Ministry of Public Security explained that only those Burundians denied asylum would be repatriated. His assistant said that some 15,000 such people are currently residing in Tanzania despite not having UNHCR refugee status: “Tanzania asked for the repatriation, and ministers from both countries agreed to register those individuals and repatriate them to Burundi. These are not Burundian refugees in Tanzania, but simply Burundians. They never had UNHCR refugee status, and they will be returned to Burundi.”