Rwanda: 500 Burundian Refugees Repatriated

According to statistics, between 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.

Joselyne Mukamusoni is a mother of seven. She, like many other thousands of Burundians, fled her motherland in 2015 seeking refuge in neighboring countries due to security tensions that were in Burundi.

On Thursday, August 27, Mukamusoni was repatriated among the 493 Burundians - the first group to be facilitated to go back home after they voluntarily requested for it.

They were all transported by buses from Mahama Refugee Camp in Kirehe District and handed over to the Burundian authorities at Nemba One-Stop Border Post in Bugesera District.

The event was attended by delegates from the Ministry of Emergency Management (Minema), UNHCR, representative of Burundian government and security officials from both countries among others.

At the occasion, every repatriated refugee was taken temperature and they had tested negative of Covid-19 before the day of repatriation.

Speaking to The New Times a few miles from her homeland, Mukamusoni said that she couldn't wait to arrive in Burundi and meet her loved ones.

"Five years are many when you are away from your country. I miss everyone at my home country and I'm optimistic to start a new life, work and feed my family as any other citizen."

Grateful to Rwandan government

Sylvin Mukezangabo, a father of six reiterated that he is grateful to Rwanda for taking care of him and fellow refugees.

"We thank Rwanda for taking care of all of us while we were still here. Our children were getting necessary basic needs and most importantly, our security was ascertained," he said.

These are not the first refugees to return home.

According to statistics, between 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.

Rwanda committed to repatriation of refugees

Speaking to the press, Permanent Secretary in Minema, Olivier Kayumba noted that Rwanda is committed to facilitating any refugees willing to return home.

"These are some of Burundian refugees who requested to be repatriated and we acted accordingly. In accordance with national and international laws, Rwanda will continue to facilitate any refugee willing to go back to his/her country of origin and protect those who wish to stay," he said.

Kayumba also highlighted that a meeting between Burundi and Rwanda is scheduled on Monday next week to know whether Burundi is ready to receive another cohort of refugees and work with UNHCR to organize the process.

On his Twitter handle, President Evariste Ndayishimiye welcomed repatriated Burundians.

"We welcome fellow Burundians who are being repatriated from Mahama. It is a joy to their families and Burundi. We call on even others willing to return home," he tweeted.

So far, UNHCR registered 1,800 Burundian refugees who wish to be repatriated, of the total close to 72,000 currently living in Rwanda.

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