Countries signed a bilateral agreement in August to send refugees home by the end of the year and, according to media reports, the Tanzanian government is ready to begin deporting refugees to Burundi on Thursday. In March 2018, Tanzania and Burundi agreed to recover 2,000 Burundians a week, as part of a tripartite agreement with UNHCR in 2017 to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees. However, the actual rate was much lower, with only 76,000 returns between September 2017 and September 2019, averaging about 730 per week. UNHCR acknowledged that “refugees and our staff are under increased pressure to increase the number of people returning each week,” but said it would “continue to work with the Tanzanian government to strive to respect the principles of volunteerism, in accordance with the tripartite agreement.” The forced return of more than 200 people on October 15 comes amid growing pressure on all refugees living in the camps to return to Burundi, Human Rights Watch said. Since August, Tanzanian officials have threatened to make public statements, closed a market and repeatedly changed administrative requirements for humanitarian organizations operating in the camps. A recent agreement between Burundian and Tanzanian police forces, which allows cross-border operations by the two police forces, has heightened fears of arrests among refugees, local media reported. A: That`s what we hear from some refugees and some agencies that have been the voices of refugees. But that`s why we have the tripartite trial. And I think that at the last three-way meeting [between Burundi, Tanzania and UNHCR], UNHCR`s position was once again clear: we will not support a return to strength and this process must be voluntary. As far as we are concerned, the refugees who have come forward so far have done so of their own free will. UNHCR, Tanzania and Burundi signed a tripartite agreement in March 2018 to facilitate the voluntary return of refugees to Burundi. Baloch says UNHCR hopes the two countries will respect the agreement and ensure that all returns are voluntary and safe. On 28 March, UNHCR began repatriating refugees from Burundi living in camps in western Tanzania as part of a tripartite agreement between the UN agency and the governments of both countries.
On 4 April, nearly 900 refugees were repatriated and more than 50,000 refugees registered with UNHCR for the future transfer. The agency hopes to continue the process at a rate of 500 per week in the northern provinces of the country, where the security situation is considered safe enough for returnees. The forced return follows an agreement signed on 24 August between Tanzania and Burundi, under which some 180,000 Burundian refugees are expected to return “voluntarily or not” to their country of origin in Tanzania by 31 December.