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Uganda to voluntarily repatriate 2,300 Burundi refugees

UNHCR and OPM officials flag off departure of Burundi refugees.

Isingiro, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The government of Uganda with support from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees-UNHCR has officially started the repatriation of over 2000 Burundi refugees from Nakivale resettlement camp in Isingiro district.

The State Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees in the Office of Prime Minister, Esther Davinia Anyakun officially flagged off the repatriation of 350 refugees on Sunday. These join another batch of 256 Burundi nationals who left last week and another batch of 231 that left last year.

While flagging off the repatriation, Anyakun said that voluntary repatriation is the best-case scenario for people who left their homes or country in search of peace, safety and security. She said that to ensure peace, safety and security to the refugees in the host communities, the government has initiated the Development Response to Displacement Impact Project-DRDIP, which aims at improving their livelihoods.

She said that the project has helped the Burundi refugees to acquire skills in carpentry, bricklaying, metal fabrication and tailoring among others that will help them to rebuild their lives back home.

Pauline Irene Abinna, the acting refugee desk officer, office of the Prime minister southwestern region, described the repatriation as a milestone to the host community, home government and the refugees since it is a symbol of peace.

Godfrey Byaruhanga, the senior field coordinator department of refugees said that the COVID-19 pandemic breakout forced countries to close their borders, delaying the repatriation that should have taken place last year.

He however said that Uganda engaged the Tanzanian government which allowed the refugees to travel by road after relaxing the COVID-19 restrictions.

Wesley Itereteka who spent six years in Uganda welcomed their repatriation and the government of Burundi for creating a peaceful environment that has allowed them to return home.

Abubakar Mbazimuti who has been in Uganda for two years explained that he did not find problems settling in Uganda. His only problem surfaced when it came to learning where lessons are conducted in English yet in Burundi they use French.

Uganda hosts over 1.4 million refugees from different countries in the Great Lakes region such as South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi and Eritrea among others.

According to statistics from the UNHCR, Uganda is home to about 51,000 Burundian refugees. At least 40,535 of these are in Nakivale refugee resettlement camp, which hosts 145,227 refugees.



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