Tanzania + 4 more

Burundi Situation: UNHCR Regional Update (January-February 2020)

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337,179 Burundian refugees residing in the main hosting countries (United Republic of Tanzania, Rwanda, the DRC, Uganda).

1,247 Burundian refugees assisted to voluntarily return in February 2020 – no assisted returns took place in January 2020.

2,385 Burundian arrivals since 1 January 2020.

80,030 total Burundian refugees assisted to return since September 2017.

112,522: Number of IDPs in Burundi as of January 2020 according to IOM’s Data Tracking Matrix. For 79 per cent the factors of displacement are linked to natural disasters, for 21 per cent they are linked to the socio-political situation.

Highlights and Operational Context

  • The security situation in Burundi remains unpredictable as the country prepares for general elections scheduled for May 2020. On 26 January, the CNDD-FDD ruling party announced that Evariste Ndayishimiye, a former General of the Burundian Army will be its candidate for the presidential election. This is an indication that President Pierre Nkurunziuza will retire at the end of his current term as indicated. Contingency planning for the election is underway with UNHCR country operations in the region updating their plans and undertaking preparedness assessments in close consultation with UN/NGO partners and host governments.

  • On 27 February, Amnesty International released a statement calling upon the Government of Burundi to drop the demand on INGOs to disclose ethnic identities of their staff. In a letter dated 13 February, the Minister of Home Affairs instructed INGOs to submit detailed and sensitive personal data on all employees by 28 February. In the case of Burundian nationals, it includes providing the ethnicity of each employee, listed by name. This measure follows the application of the 2017 law that requires foreign NGOs to recruit national staff in line with the ethnic and gender quotas laid out in Burundi’s Constitution, already applicable to state institutions. The INGOs replied on 28 February to the government providing data but without disclosing any information regarding their employees’ ethnicities.

  • The European parliament asked members to expand punitive sanctions imposed on rights violators in Burundi, ahead of the planned election in May. On 13 February, the parliament passed a resolution condemning Bujumbura’s alleged crackdown on activists and members of the opposition which it said raised concerns about the fairness of the coming election. The non-binding resolution says; “The European parliament calls for the expansion of the EU’s targeted sanctions and urges the UN Security Council to impose its own targeted sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, against individuals responsible for ongoing serious human rights violations in Burundi.” It also claimed that there had been “large scale” violations of human rights and intimidation of the opposition, while journalists are arrested for doing their job.

Update on voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees from the United Republic of Tanzania


  • UNHCR and partners are not promoting returns to Burundi but are working with the governments involved to ensure that returns are based on the principles of voluntariness and informed decisions and take place in safety and dignity.

  • The current return operation is taking place under the framework of a Tripartite Agreement between the two governments and UNHCR in which all parties have acknowledged that while some refugees may opt to return now, others may still have well-founded reasons not to return at the present time and will continue to be in need of international protection.

  • To ensure sustainable reintegration in Burundi, support has been requested for both returnees and communities in areas of return in line with the objectives of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) and the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), in particular objective four (4), which focuses on supporting conditions in countries of origin for return.


  • At the start of 2020, the countries of the Great Lakes Region were host to approximately 333,000 Burundian refugees, including over 11,000 who arrived in 2019. The situation in Burundi remains complex with some refugees returning, while others continue to seek asylum abroad. Some 21,000 refugees were assisted to return voluntarily in 2019, the vast majority from the United Republic of Tanzania. The repatriation of Burundian refugees from Tanzania resumed on 6 February after a three month pause. As of 29 February, a total of 1,247 persons had been assisted to return to Burundi.


  • In the United Republic of Tanzania, UNHCR and the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania work in partnership with the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), HelpAge International, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Tanzanian Red Cross Society (TRCS), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), International Organization for Migration (IOM), Plan International, and the World Food Programme (WFP).

  • In Burundi, UNHCR is collaborating with the Department of Repatriation under the Government of Burundi, World Food Programme (WFP), International Rescue Committee (IRC), Caritas and the Civil Volunteer Group (GVC).