Burundi government says it would start repatriating 200,000 of its refugees from neighbouring Tanzania beginning from October, fueling anxiety among those who have crossed the border to escape violence.
According to Burundi Interior Minister Pascal Barandagiye, both countries reached an agreement over the weekend that the return exercise would commence on October 1.
Tanzania’s Home Affairs Minister Kangi Lugola said it would facilitate the return of “all Burundians” in the country because “Burundi is peaceful”, according to a video posted on the ministry’s Twitter feed on Sunday.
Hundreds of Burundians have been killed in clashes with security forces since 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a third, disputed term in office.
Over the same period, more than 400,000 have fled abroad, predominantly to Tanzania, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to UNHCR data, the number of Burundian refugees in neighbouring countries was 342,867 as of 31 July 2019. But the government of Burundi has dismissed this figure, saying that these figures are ‘ballooned up’ by the UNHCR staff.