Almost 600 refugees on Thursday left Tanzania to return to their home country of Burundi as part of a mass repatriation.
In August this year Tanzania and Burundi announced that they have agreed for some 200,000 Burundian refugees to return home.
Burundi and Tanzania agreed to this move of mass repatriation from October.
The refugees settled in the Nyarugusu, Nduta and Mtendeli camps in Tanzania’s south-western province of Kigoma.
The government of Tanzania insists Burundi “is peaceful” but there are fears over forced return of these refugees.
In 2015 hundreds of Burundians were killed in clashes with security forces, when President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a third.
More than 400,000 then fled the violence seeking refuge in countries like Tanzania, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
The UNHCR has already revealed that around 75,000 Burundians have already returned home in the past two years.
A Tanzanian government official and the United Nations said all of Thursday’s returns had been voluntary.
Athuman Igwe, responsible for coordinating refugees affairs in Kigoma, western Tanzania said “All refugees who had registered to return home voluntarily from all camps gathered at Nduta camp and departed from there.”
The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, said 590 Burundian refugees had agreed to return home via flights organised with the U.N.’s International Organization of Migration (IOM).
It’s statement said “We urge the governments of Tanzania and Burundi to respect their commitments to uphold international obligations and ensure that any refugee returns remain voluntary and that no refugee or asylum seeker is returned to Burundi against their will.”