21 February 2008 Seeking to end one of the most prolonged refugee situations in the world, the United Nations is appealing for $34 million to assist 218,000 Burundians who fled to neighbouring Tanzania to escape violence in their homeland over 35 years ago.
The so-called “1972 Burundians” are among the hundreds of thousands of Burundians who sought refuge in neighbouring countries that year to escape ethnic violence which killed an estimated 200,000 people. They are distinct from Burundian refugees who arrived in Tanzania in the 1990s.
The appeal made by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) covers the voluntary repatriation and reintegration of some 46,000 refugees who wish to return to Burundi.
“We see this as one of our most important programmes on the African continent this year,” said Marjon Kamara, Director of the UNHCR Africa Bureau. “The voluntary repatriation and reintegration for those 1972 Burundians who have expressed the desire to go home will be fully supported and expedited.”
Funds from the appeal will also help the remaining 172,000 refugees integrate into their local communities in Tanzania.
“Local integration in Tanzania for those who expressed the desire to remain and apply for Tanzanian citizenship is a time-bound opportunity and we hope the donors’ response in support of both solutions will be quick, positive and adequate,” Ms. Kamara stated. “It is critical to complete the process in a timely manner to achieve sustainable success.”
UNHCR will assist in the integration process by, among other things, helping improve water systems and health clinics in receiving communities, as well as strengthening educational institutions and vocational training centres.
In addition to 218,000 Burundian refugees from 1972, Tanzania hosts 113,000 Burundian refugees and 96,000 refugees from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
News Tracker: past stories on this issue