A total of 159 Burundian refugees on Tuesday voluntarily repatriated from Mahama Refugee Camp to their home country, officials confirmed.
They follow several other Burundian refugees that were previously handed over to Burundian authorities at Nemba One-Stop Border post in Bugesera District.
The ongoing repatriation exercise comes into force after over 330 Burundian refugees, in 2020, appealed for a dignified and lawful return to their home country in a petition to the Burundian President, Evariste Ndayishimiye.
So far, 24,000 Burundian refugees have been repatriated, according to the Ministry of Emergency Management (MINEMA).
Prior to their return back home, the refugees undergo Covid-19 tests, the Ministry added.
MINEMA earlier told The New Times that the number of refugees to be repatriated is decided based on the capacity of the Burundian Transit Centre for returning refugees.
The New Times also understands that the UNHCR is currently expanding refugee facilities in Burundi to ensure that returning refugees are safely accommodated.
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 the Burundian government.
Available statistics indicate that so far, 1,082 households of 3,897 Burundian refugees in the camp have registered at UNHCR requesting to return home, as registration goes on.
In August 2020, Rwanda reaffirmed the principle of voluntary repatriation as a durable solution for refugees.
Rwanda also reiterated its commitment to the protection of refugees on its territory, and its readiness to facilitate the safe and dignified return of those who choose to repatriate, in collaboration with UNHCR and relevant governments.
The government of Rwanda hosts over 149,000 refugees, among whom close to 72,000, or 48 per cent are Burundians.
At least 60,000 Burundian refugees are hosted at the Mahama Refugee Camp.