Burundi Situation: UNHCR Regional Update (October 2019)
326,442: Total Burundian refugees residing in the main hosting countries (United Republic of Tanzania, Rwanda, the DRC, Uganda).
20,527: Burundian refugees assisted to voluntarily return so far in 2019, with some 2,293 assisted in October.
9,323: Total Burundian arrivals recorded in 2019. In October, 1,695 new arrivals were reported.
79,311: Total Burundian refugees assisted to return between September 2017 and 31 October 2019, mainly from Tanzania. For more information, please check the Voluntary Repatriation dashboard.
103,412: Number of IDPs in Burundi as of October 2019 according to IOM’s Data Tracking Matrix, for 77 per cent the factors of displacement are linked to natural disasters, for 23 per cent they are linked to the socio-political situation.
Highlights and Operational Context
On 30 October, Michel Kafando, the United Nations Special Envoy to Burundi, informed the UN Security Council that he planned to step down from the post he has held for two years, amid concerns over the impartiality of elections set for 2020. Kafando pointed out that even though Burundi's security situation has improved, and that the government has put in place a "framework for political dialogue", there remains a lack of progress of the inter-Burundian dialogue guided by the East African Community, and warned about the ongoing deterioration of the socio-economic situation.
On 28 October, UNHCR, repeated its call to ensure that refugee returns from Tanzania to Burundi remain voluntary, following a bilateral agreement between the two governments in late August to increase return rates. This also followed public statements made on 11 October during a rally in Katavi region in northwestern Tanzania, by President Magufuli urging Burundian refugees to return home. UNHCR continues to work with local officials to ensure refugee returns are voluntary and only taking place under the existing Tripartite Agreement between the Tanzanian and Burundian governments and the UN Refugee Agency. Some 79,000 refugees have made the choice to return to Burundi under this arrangement since 2017.
In October, the International Refugee Rights Initiative released the report “Returning to Stability? Refugee returns in the Great Lakes region”. Among others, this report looked at the voluntary repatriation process for Burundians who fled to Tanzania after the 2015 crisis. It also highlights the social, economic and political dynamics of refugees’ experience both with local authorities and their communities once back in Burundi. While returnees generally encounter solidarity and mutual assistance, they are also facing mistrust and socio-political exclusion.