More funding needed to support refugees’ repatriation-UNHCR  

UNITED Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi has called for more funding to support the safe and dignified repatriation of Burundi refugees returning to their homes from Tanzania to promote their resilience as well as sustainable reintegration.

The Commissioner, who was in the country for three days, held a meeting at the Chamwino State House  in Dodoma with President Samia Suluhu Hassan where, among other things, they discussed the return of Burundian refugees.

According to Mr Grandi, they highlighted the necessity of increasing investment in Burundi to ensure that there are more suitable homes available, including supporting  the government in resolving the extremely complex land issue.

“More funds are still required to support basic assistance during their return, including food and water, but the refugees also need some money to establish themselves when they return to Burundi since they had lost everything, therefore repatriation might take longer than expected,” he noted.

He added, “I am very aware that this hospitality has been ongoing for a very long time, we should not take it for granted. This is a very big responsibility Tanzania has accepted to shoulder on behalf of the international community and more support and even more important is that solutions need to be found for this long-standing displacement situation, in particular perhaps the Burundians,”

The UNHCR boss further said that although Burundi’s situation has improved and Tanzania faces its own issues, the majority of refugees still face significant obstacles because their homes were taken from them.

The voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees from Tanzania started in September 2017 whereby more than 142,000 of them have been assisted to return home. In August this year, more than 1000 people will be going back home.

UNHCR supports voluntary return of refugees to their homes safely and with dignity as an important durable solution and ensures that returns are based on the principles of voluntariness and informed decisions.

“Burundi, Tanzania, and UNHCR have a tripartite agreement, and I believe it’s critical that we examine fresh concepts so that this forum ramps up its efforts to attempt to establish these conditions. To assist refugees, Burundi must have stable supporting conditions,” said Mr Grandi.

The Commissioner visited Nyarugusu camp in Kigoma region, which hosts 130,000 refugees, a mix of Burundians and Congolese. As of 30 June 2021, Tanzania hosts over 254,000 refugees.

“My trip to Nyarugusu was quite successful. Many advancements were evident. I presented birth certificates to newly born refugee babies; this is crucial because many refugees are born without them, running the risk of becoming stateless,” he stated.

He asserted that it is crucial for them to be able to use their birth certificates as identification documents when they return to their home countries.

Mr Grandi also visited a new more dynamic programme-Shelter Programme-that involves helping refugees live in better conditions, where they can now grow vegetables and other produce near their houses to support their nutrition so they can supplement their diet especially for children because what they receive through the humanitarian distribution is rather limited.

“Among the positive things I have seen or heard of I want to commend the government of Tanzania for having included refugees in its Covid-19 vaccination campaign, this is something to be commended as it has not been done in other countries,” he said.

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