First group of 493 Burundian refugees voluntarily repatriated

Buses transporting refugees from Mahama refugee camp in Kirehe District to the Nemba One Stop Border Post, Bugesera District.

On Thursday 27 August 2020, the Government of Rwanda in collaboration with the Government of Burundi and UNHCR facilitated the organized voluntary repatriation of 493 Burundian refugees from the Mahama Refugee Camp, through the Nemba One Stop Border Post.

This was the first phase of the organized voluntary repatriation process. The Government of Rwanda will continue to facilitate similar operations as registration of refugees willing to return home continues across the country. So far, UNHCR has registered 1,800 requests.

Rwanda currently hosts close to 72,000 Burundian refugees. From 2015 until March 2020, when Rwanda closed its borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 5,922 refugees had already voluntarily gone back to Burundi, returning their refugee status documents at Rwandan border posts.

On 26 July 2020, a petition allegedly signed by some of Burundian refugees widely circulated on Social Media and other digital platforms. This petition was addressed to the President of Burundi requesting his support in facilitating these refugees’ repatriation.

Refugees who want to return home contact UNHCR protection teams in Mahama camp and Kigali to get information about the repatriation process and express their willingness and readiness to repatriate on an individual basis to Burundi.

Repatriation is based on a principle of voluntariness. The decision to return is an individual decision and only the refugees who freely make this decision and express their willingness to return to Burundi will be assisted.  

In respect of international conventions and national legal instruments, Rwanda has, and will continue to facilitate any refugee willing to go back to his/her country of origin as well as to protect refugees and asylum seekers on its territory.