Refugees stuck for lack of funds

The East African - - NEWS - By MOSES HAVYARIMANA Special Corrspon­dentt

IN­AD­E­QUATE FUND­ING con­tin­ues to ham­per ef­forts by the United Nations High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees to have Bu­run­di­ans in refugee camps sent back home, says the agency's re­gional co-or­di­na­tor for Bu­rundi, Cather­ine Weis­ner.

As a re­sult, UN­HCR has toned down calls push­ing for more refugees to be repa­tri­ated and in­stead is work­ing with the Bu­run­dian and Tan­za­nian gov­ern­ments to as­sist those who are will­ing to be repa­tri­ated vol­un­tar­ily.

“The ma­jor con­straint we are fac­ing is the lack of ad­e­quate fund­ing, which leads to a sig­nif­i­cant back­log of refugees in Tan­za­nia who have reg­is­tered to re­turn,” said Ms Weis­ner.

“We con­tinue to en­gage with the gov­ern­ment of Tan­za­nia at high lev­els, work­ing within the frame­work of tri­par­tite agree­ment with the gov­ern­ments of Tan­za­nia and Bu­rundi to reaf­firm and en­sure any refugee re­turns are vol­un­tary," she added.

Ac­cord­ing to UN­HCR, since last year the agency as­sisted more than 44,000 refugees to vol­un­tar­ily repa­tri­ate to Bu­rundi, with the vast majority com­ing from Tan­za­nia. Oth­ers came from Kenya, the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo and Rwanda.

Tan­za­nia hosts more than 250,000 refugees from Bu­rundi, most of whom fled fol­low­ing po­lit­i­cal up­heaval there in 2015.

Ac­cord­ing to the Bu­run­dian gov­ern­ment more than 100,000 refugees from Tan­za­nia, the DRC and Rwanda have been repa­tri­ated since 2016.

Bu­jum­bura de­nied re­ports that some refugees were in­tim­i­dated and forced to re­turn to their home coun­try.

“Those al­le­ga­tions are not true be­cause there were some in­di­vid­u­als who aren’t happy about the refugee repa­tri­a­tion ex­er­cise due to their self-in­ter­est,” Bu­rundi Home Af­fairs As­sis­tant Min­is­ter Ther­ence Ntahi­raja told The Eastafrican.

Mr Ntahi­raja said that peo­ple were sur­prised to see many refugees be­ing repa­tri­ated as it is a sign that Bu­rundi is now peace­ful.

Re­turnees cite im­proved over­all se­cu­rity in the coun­try, de­sire to re­oc­cupy farm­land and to re­unify with fam­ily. Some also say that they feel the con­di­tions at home, how­ever chal­leng­ing, will be bet­ter than what they are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing as refugees.

A re­cent re­port by a Bu­run­dian civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tion in­di­cated that refugees were pro­hib­ited from leav­ing their camps to go to nearby mar­kets to trade.

How­ever, about 1,000 refugees con­tinue to ar­rive in neigh­bour­ing coun­tries each month, cit­ing in­se­cu­rity, ha­rass­ment, and fear.

Dur­ing a visit to Tan­za­nia last month, UN­HCR As­sis­tant High Com­mis­sioner for Pro­tec­tion Volker Türk said that refugees needed to have a choice, and that the de­ci­sion to re­turn sh­old be vol­un­tary.

“UN­HCR is not pro­mot­ing re­turns to Bu­rundi at this stage, but we con­tinue to work with the gov­ern­ments of Bu­rundi and host coun­tries, in­clud­ing Tan­za­nia, to as­sist those who feel now is the time to re­turn home,” he added.

The ma­jor con­straint we are fac­ing is the lack of ad­e­quate fund­ing, which leads to a sig­nif­i­cant back­log of refugees in Tan­za­nia.” UN­HCR re­gional co-or­di­na­tor for Bu­rundi, Cather­ine Weis­ner

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kenya

© PressReader. All rights reserved.