Analysis of the context, crisis and needs
Despite heightened tensions in Burundi during the May 2020 elections, there was no major forced displacement inside the country or across borders. The new Government of Burundi has urged refugees who had fled the country, including Government critics and human rights activists, to return home. Since August 2020, an increasing number of voluntary returns have been facilitated from Tanzania and Rwanda, as well as from DRC. UNHCR will continue to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees who express their wish to return, but it remains crucial to provide international protection to refugees who are not seeking to return at this time and to fully respect their right to asylum.
The majority of the refugee population remain dependent on humanitarian assistance. They live in densely populated camps with inadequate shelter, health services and WASH infrastructures, coupled with food ration cuts in several countries due to underfunding. The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the situation.
Burundian refugees face multiple protection risks, particularly SGBV, including survival sex and early marriage, due to limited access to livelihoods, school closures, overcrowded shelters, lack of domestic energy supply and reduced humanitarian assistance. Refugee children make up over 50 per cent of the refugee population and are exposed to particular risks. The situation of unaccompanied and separated children is particularly concerning, as many suffer neglect. Adolescents have increasingly resorted to negative coping mechanisms.
Projected situation in 2021 and beyond
In the context of the refugee response, RRP partners will continue to prioritize support to children, women and persons living with disabilities or with other specific needs and consolidate community-based protection mechanisms. Psychosocial and mental health support will be scaled up.
There is an urgent need to create better conditions to promote the self-reliance of refugees in asylum countries. This can be done through increased livelihood opportunities, the expansion of cash-based interventions promoting refugees’ financial inclusion and contribution to the local economy, and stronger socioeconomic inclusion of refugees (particularly in the areas of health, education and jobs). RRP partners will aim to integrate the refugee response with development plans and efforts to promote socioeconomic growth by scaling up livelihood interventions in refugee camps, hosting districts and urban areas, and ensuring the inclusion of refugees within national systems and services. Partnerships with the private sector will be strengthened to enhance refugees’ work opportunities through advocacy and policy efforts.
The projected voluntary repatriation of some 141,000 Burundi refugees in 2021, mainly from Tanzania (93,000) and Rwanda (40,000), requires the reinforcement of counseling, registration and departure centres, the renovation and/or construction of transit facilities, and the recruitment of additional qualified staff to carry out pre-departure formalities and logistical support. COVID-19 testing must be organized for all departing refugees, requiring further upgrading of health and WASH facilities.
Response priorities in 2021
The 2021 Burundi RRP outlines the multi-agency response strategy and financial requirements of 35 partners supporting host Governments. The strategy provides protection and assistance to Burundian refugees across the four main asylum countries, assists impacted members of the host communities, and supports refugees returning to Burundi. The updated plan developed in accordance with the Refugee Coordination Model takes a comprehensive and solutions-oriented approach and includes the impact on host communities. The 2021 RRP for the Burundi situation envisages stronger engagement with development and peacebuilding partners to enhance services and infrastructure in refugee-hosting and return areas. An inter-agency 2021 Joint Refugee Return and Reintegration Plan is being developed to enhance the absorption capacity and reintegration opportunities in return areas in Burundi, complementing the RRP. This is in light of increasing numbers of refugee returns to Burundi since August 2020, and the continued high number of voluntary repatriations anticipated in 2021.
DRC, Rwanda and Uganda have developed refugee responses in line with the GCR, granting the right of movement to refugees, providing refugees access to national social services and supporting the goal of self-reliance. Efforts towards greater autonomy of refugees are, however, severely hampered due to many constraints on the ground, including inadequate resources, lack of economic opportunities, poor infrastructure and security-related challenges. Tanzania maintains an encampment policy and restrictive livelihood environment.
In 2021, RRP partners will continue to preserve access to asylum and ensure reception, protection and assistance for Burundian refugees, including new arrivals, with targeted assistance for persons with specific needs using a community-based approach. Refugees will be registered and issued with documentation (national ID cards, birth and marriage registration). Moreover, RRP partners will intensify activities to enhance peaceful coexistence and social cohesion between host communities and refugees, including through the protection of the environment. COVID-19 prevention and response activities will also continue throughout 2021, and critical gaps in the WASH sector will be prioritized.
- These people in need and people targeted figures include refugees and returnees, as well as impacted members of host communities, they are however provisional and subject to ongoing operational planning for 2021. The financial requirements are preliminary, and pending finalization and approval by partners.