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Burundi Situation: UNHCR Regional Update (December 2019)

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333,554 Total Burundian refugees residing in the main hosting countries (United Republic of Tanzania, Rwanda, the DRC, Uganda).

20,916 Burundian refugees assisted to voluntarily return so far in 2019. No returns took place in December.

11,251 Total Burundian arrivals recorded in 2019. In December, 758 new arrivals were reported.

Highlights and Operational Context

  • In a statement on 12 December, Human Rights Watch says tens of thousands of Burundian refugees face mounting pressure to involuntarily leave Tanzania amid efforts by authorities to reduce the number of Burundians in the country. The rights group stated that the fear of violence, arrest and deportation from Tanzania is driving many of the 166,000 Burundians out of the country and claims that some of the refugees have since sought shelter in neighboring Uganda. In mid-November, Human Rights Watch interviewed 20 Burundian refugees in Uganda who described the pressure and mounting intimidation that caused them to leave Tanzania between August 2018 and October 2019.

Update on voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees from the United Republic of Tanzania


  • UNHCR and partners are not promoting returns to Burundi but are working with the governments involved to ensure that returns are based on the principles of voluntariness and informed decisions and take place in safety and dignity.

  • The current return operation is taking place under the framework of a Tripartite Agreement between the two governments and UNHCR in which all parties have acknowledged that while some refugees may opt to return now, others may still have well-founded reasons not to return at the present time and will continue to be in need of international protection.

  • To ensure a sustainable reintegration in Burundi, support has been requested for both returnees and communities in areas of return in line with the objectives of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) and the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), in particular objective four (4), which focuses on supporting conditions in countries of origin for return.


  • Due to capacity constraints, voluntary repatriation remained on hold in December. However, UNHCR remains firmly committed to supporting durable solutions for refugees in Tanzania and will continue to ensure that all returns take place in safety and dignity and are based on a free and informed choice. A total of 78,797 individuals have voluntarily been repatriated from Tanzania since the exercise began in September 2017.

  • No return convoys have taken place since 7 November 2019.