Burkina Faso: Government set up reinsertion plan for returnees
The programme, costing US $32 million, aims to help provide schools, health services and jobs for the returnees, most of whom have been quietly reabsorbed into poor rural communities that already have too many mouths to feed.
According to official figures, 320,000 Burkinabe residents in Cote d'Ivoire have fled home over the past 10 months following a wave of persecution of Burkinabe and other West African immigrants in government-held areas of the country.
But officials at the Ministry of Social Affairs say they believe the real figure is closer to 500,000 and the exodus is still continuing.
About three million Burkinabe and their descendents lived in Cote d'Ivoire before the conflict, having been welcomed as immigrants to their more prosperous southern neighbour by Cote d'Ivoire's first president Felix Houphouet-Boigny, who ruled from independence in 1960 until shortly before his death in 1993.
Burkinabe, Malian and Guinean immigrants to Cote d'Ivoire were widely suspected of sympathising with rebels who seized control the poor and mainly Muslim north of the country in September last year. Many of these people suffered persecution and harassment as a result prompting a wave of returnees to all three countries.
The Burkinabe government said its assistance programme for returnees particularly targetted 280,000 "needy and vulnerable" people who will need food aid until the next harvest begins in November.
"After the first phase that consisted of welcoming the returnees - who are still arriving - we thought it was necessary to embark on addressing their socio-economic reinsertion through integrated activities," Mariam Lamizana, the Minister of Social Affairs and National Solidarity said as the programme was unveiled last week.
The programme will focus on boosting enrolment in schools, constructing shelters, the provision professional training, and assistance for women to start income-generating activities.
One of the first challenges to be faced by the authorities is issuing the returnees with new identity documents. Many lost their original papers as they fled Cote d'Ivoire during fighting which last until April this year.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) continues to be instrumental in facilitating the return of Burkinabe nationals in Cote d'Ivoire who want to go home.
Salome Kombere, the IOM representative in Burkina Faso told IRIN that returnees from Cote d'Ivoire were still arriving in IOM-organised convoys at a rate of 500 a week. Of these, 80 percent were Burkinabe nationals. The rest were citizens of other West African countries, such as Mali, Niger, Sierra Leone and Senegal trying to go home.
Kombere said most of those still arriving in Burkina Faso were women and children from Cote d'Ivoire's western border with Liberia. Security remains a problem in that area and those arriving included many people who had recently fled fighting in Liberia, she added.
"We have had a large number of returnees since June and we are working with government officials to secure better conditions for those being repatriated," Kombere said.
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