600 Burundian refugees head home in mass repatriation

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Nearly 600 refugees have voluntarily left Tanzania for their homes in neighbouring Burundi on Thursday, fearing that the exercise could turn forceful.

The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, said 590 Burundian refugees had returned on flights that it had organised with the U.N.’s International Organization of Migration (IOM).

“We urge the governments of Tanzania and Burundi to respect their commitments to uphold international obligations and ensure that any refugee returns remain voluntary and that no refugee or asylum seeker is returned to Burundi against their will,” a U.N. Commission on Burundi said in a statement.

Thousands of Burundians fled a surge of political violence in 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a third disputed term in office and opponents accused him of breaching the constitution.

Burundi and Tanzania had agreed in August to start repatriating 200,000 refugees, saying that conditions in Burundi had improved.

Despite its unresolved political crisis, Burundi is preparing for another election in 2020 which the UN says could result in a fresh wave of atrocities.




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