The move follows improvements in the political situation and socio-economic conditions since the outbreak of political violence in 2015.
According to UNHCR, the number reached 71,971 as of June at 30 June 2019, since the programme commencement in September 2017. The pogramme promotes voluntarily registration and repatriation of refugees to their home country (Burundi).
In its statement availed to the media recently, UNHCR said that among them, 36,350 (50.5 percent) are women and 35,621 (49.5 percent) are men.
It further stated that the highest number of returns were to Ruyigi, Muyinga, and Makamba provinces (16,268, 13,724 and 12,630 returnees respectively).
In 31 August 2017 the Tripartite Commission (United Republic of Tanzania, Republic of Burundi, and UNHCR) issued a joint communiqué and agreed to implement a work plan from September 7, to 31 December 2017, which entails the voluntary repatriation plan of Burundian refugees who wish to return to Burundi.
On 28 March 2018, a follow up Tripartite Commission Meeting was held in Bujumbura, Burundi. While UNHCR continued to maintain that it will assist and not promote voluntary returns to Burundi due to the unresolved political situation, both governments reaffirmed their commitment to promoting return and upholding the principle of voluntariness.
With the completion of Phases I, II and III, the two governments, UNHCR and key partners agreed to implement a new work plan to return 72,000 individuals from 5 April to 31 December 2018. The voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees will continue as planned until a new Tripartite Commission Meeting addressing arising needs is called. While UNHCR is not promoting voluntary return to Burundi, it is supporting the operation to ensure that returns are based on the principles of voluntariness and informed decisions, and take place in safety and dignity.
The Tripartite Commission also acknowledged that while some refugees may opt to return now, others may still have well-founded reasons for not returning at the present time and will continue to be in need of international protection.
During his official visit in Tanzania early this year, The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi emphasized that refugees should never be pressured to decide if they should return to their home countries.
According to him, refugees need to have a meaningful choice about whether they wish to return based on the facts and realities on the ground. There should not be any direct or indirect pressure exercised on refugees to choose whether to return.
“Conditions are still uncertain in both DRC and Burundi,” Grandi said to, noting that nevertheless some refugees are volunteering to go back and are supported by UNHCR. “It is important that nobody is forced back, that repatriation remains a voluntary exercise.”
He called for more international support to ensure refugees who return voluntarily are able to successfully reintegrate in their countries of origin.