UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has welcomed the progress in the return of refugees to Burundi, urging the government to step up assistance, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Thursday.
“Ending a two-day visit to Burundi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi praised the progress made towards helping refugees find long-term solutions in the heart of Africa’s Great Lakes Region,” the agency said in a statement.
Grandi praised the “increased focus on finding solutions for refugees, especially for Burundians,” the statement read.
“The return of refugees places great responsibility on the shoulders of the government, especially in ensuring security in areas of return,” the commissioner was quoted as saying.
The government must facilitate the reintegration of refugees through such measures as providing them with access to property and services, and the ability to work and make income, Grandi said, warning that otherwise these people might well end up displaced again.
During his visit to Burundi, the commissioner met and discussed these issues with President Evariste Ndayishimiye, according to the statement. He commended the Burundian government for hosting some 80,000 Congolese refugees despite facing serious social and economic challenges.
In February, the UNHCR, together with the Burundian government and nineteen other partners, set up a facility called the Joint Refugee Return and Reintegration Plan, which aimed to raise $104.3 million internationally to support the return and reintegration of refugees. However, less than 10% of the needed funds have so far been mobilized for Burundi despite an increase in the number of refugees, the statement said.
The UN commissioner accompanied a convoy of 159 Burundian refugees returning home after a years-long exile in neighboring Rwanda. Overall since 2017, at least 145,000 Burundian refugees repatriated from Rwanda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo with the UNHCR help, with a weekly average of 2,000 individuals.