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The ‘Association of Burundese Diaspora Returned from Europe’: its genesis, aspirations and challenges

After signing a memorandum of understanding between the Government of Burundi and some governments in the EU on cooperation in the fight against illegal immigration, the European authorities have tightened the conditions for granting asylum or residence permits to Burundese citizens. Since 2008 Burundi therefore has witnessed a return of many Burundians who have been refused refugee status and/or those whose residence permits have not been extended. Unfortunately, upon arrival in Burundi, no structure or home rehabilitation assistance has been provided by the government, while it was the government who signed the repatriation agreement.

The Association was registered in April 2011 and works around 4 principal angles:

  • The establishment of a returnee support network where returnees coming from Europe[1] come together for mutual (psychosocial support) and to generate ideas to improve their living conditions
  • The socio-economic  integration of returnees through micro projects: different plans have been elaborated in the meantime. The additional value of these specific micro projects is that they are developed according to  ‘modern standards’ and by people who have got some education. The implementation of these micro projects can serve as an example for and benefit other people, not necessarily returnees;
  • The establishment of a network of relevant stakeholders (Ministries, IOM, Lique Iteka, youth and women’s organizations, Micro credit organizations) in order to raise awareness among stakeholders for the (psychosocial) problems of returnees and to coordinate activities and services
  • Raising awareness among the population through a campaign about i) the difficulties this target group is facing after their return in Burundi ii) the possibilities regarding existing services for returnees and ii) the difficulties Burundians will face when leaving the country without having realistic information about the foreign country.

HealthNet TPO in collaboration with Ligue Iteka have taken responsibility for the reintegration and (psychological) care and support of returnees, mainly coming from The Netherlands. Where Ligue Iteka took care of the social reintegration of returnees in Burundi, HealthNet TPO has organized training sessions in various fields such as hospitality and psychological support. Each of these trainings was finalized by the granting of a certificate of participation.

The Association now has acquired a small office in the center of Bujumbura. This office serves as a meeting place for members to discuss their difficulties and work together to find solutions to overcome them. It also serves as the venue for guidance for newcomers.

Theodosius Simuzeye, President of the Association: “The challenges that the Association is facing are enormous given the acute shortage of financial resources. It makes it harder to take advantage of the skills acquired by members in different countries of origin. However, with the determination that is displayed by the members, no one doubts that the Association will achieve its objectives.”
 


[1] The respondents make a clear distinction between returnees from mostly European countries and repatriates coming from the region; most returnees coming from neighboring countries are supported by the UNHCR while the former group are mainly Burundians who did not succeed in getting a status. The problems and background of these two groups of ‘returnees’ are quite different and ask for a different approach.


 

 

 

 

 

 


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