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A report published by the IRRI (International Refugee Right Initiative and unnamed Burundi Local Partners) explicitly concluded that in Burundi “history has shown that the failures of previous return and reintegration processes have set the stage for the next round of displacement and ignited conflicts, including over land”. A quick review of available literature done before conducting this research has potentially indicated that returnees’ assistance has been taken more as a short-term humanitarian exercise which often ignore the development nexus2 and thus making return a less durable solution than expected. Following this preliminary conclusion, qualitative research among the returnees following the displacements related to the 2015 political crisis in Burundi, was organised in the province of Rutana, Giharo Commune during August and September 2022.

The aim of the study was to bring more light into the factors contributing to poor returnee reintegration in Burundi and explore the extent to which comprehensive approach to returnees’ reintegration taking into account both humanitarian and development interventions could reverse the trend to the benefit of successful reintegration of returning refugees. The research conclusions showed that while return in Burundi is designed to solve a refugee humanitarian problem by providing durable solution for them, the durability of the solution remains questionable. on one side, returnees reported that, even if the return package has been increased, the quantity remains insufficient while the three months assistance time is short for a population that has been absent from 2015. On the other side, the resilience capacity of the returnees remains weak after the return package. This is partly due to the fact that they return to a context which is largely fragile following the political crisis which lasted for over five years, the economic sanctions imposed on Burundi following the crisis, the impact of Covid-19 pandemic, the environmental hazards, as well as the impact of the Ukrainian war. The fact that return package does not deal with structural issues hunting these refugees accounts for their vulnerability. The research found that, the poor access to means of production, the exclusive practices against returnees by local authorities, and the less varied and limited post return assistance are some of the major issues blocking standing on the way of these returnees. In particular, it was noticed that, even if the Burundian government has shown the willingness to welcome returnees, there is hardly sufficient funding to support them beyond the initial return package generally supplied by UNHCR and its implementing agents. Among the coping mechanisms by returnees which this study finds are internal migration towards areas understood to offer possibility of work, carrying out cross-border informal business, and some reported cases of fresh movements back to former host countries or new destinations. The study recommends that an integrated development program, geared toward improving the return socio-economic context should be associated with the current humanitarian efforts if return is going to be truly a durable solution.


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