UNbacked repatriation of Burundian refugees from Rwanda begins

19 May 2009The United Nations refugee agency today reported that it had assisted in the return to Burundi of more than 500 refugees who had spent the last ten years in Rwanda. The United Nations refugee agency today reported that it had assisted in the return to Burundi of more than 500 refugees who had spent the last ten years in Rwanda.The departure yesterday from the Kigeme camp in Nyammgabe District in southern Rwanda, near the border with Burundi, of 529 refugees – about a third of the 1,495 refugees in the site – is the first stage of a plan by the Governments of the two countries to close the camp by the end of the month, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.Kigeme is Rwanda’s only camp sheltering Burundian refugees and has been in operation since 1995. Refugees living in Kigeme have the option of voluntary repatriation or local integration after applying through regular immigration channels, according to the agency.A truck and bus convoy brought the refugees returning to Burundi to a transit centre, where they were provided with assistance, non- food items and food rations from UNHCR, the World Food Programme (WFP) and humanitarian partners. UNHCR said it would provide transport to all refugees who want to return to their areas of origin. Additional convoys will depart for Burundi over the next two weeks, also carrying urban refugees living in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.Rwanda currently hosts 55,000 refugees, the majority of whom come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). read more