Rwanda in collaboration with Burundi and the UN refugee agency UNHCR on Thursday repatriated the first batch of about 500 Burundian refugees who have been living in a camp in the eastern part of the country since 2015, the Rwandan Ministry of Emergency Management said.
“The first phase of the organized voluntary repatriation process for #Burundian refugees hosted in Rwanda has started today,” the ministry said in a tweet.
The refugees left Mahama refugee camp in Kirehe district aboard buses and were destined to leave Rwanda through Nemba border post, “happy to return to their motherland,” it added.
In a statement released earlier Thursday, the ministry said this is 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, the statement said.
It said so far UNHCR has registered requests for 1800 refugees who want to be repatriated.
Rwanda currently hosts close to 72,000 Burundian refugees, according to the ministry.
From 2015 to March 2020 when Rwanda closed its borders due to COVID-19 pandemic 5922 refugees had already voluntarily gone back to Burundi, returning their refugee status documents at Rwandan border posts, the ministry said.
In respect of international conventions and national legal instruments, Rwanda has and will continue to facilitate any refugee willing to go back to his or her country of origin as well as to protect refugees and asylum seekers on its territory, it added.