UN refugee agency begins assisting resettlement of Burundians in US

With the assistance of the United Nations refugee agency, the first group of some 8,500 Burundians to be resettled in the United States today left a refugee camp in Tanzania, where they had taken refuge after fleeing mass violence 35 years ago. The 88 who left today are part of 3,000 so-called ‘1972 Burundians’ – about 35 per cent of the number accepted for resettlement – who are expected to leave over the next 15 weeks for Nairobi and then travel on to various US cities, such as Atlanta and Phoenix, according to Jennifer Pagonis, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “The 1972 Burundians represent one of the world’s most protracted refugee situations, and resettlement is the only viable durable solution for most of them,” Ms. Pagonis said in Geneva. Hundreds of thousands of Burundians fled to neighbouring countries that year to escape ethnic violence which killed an estimated 200,000 people, she said, adding that children of refugees born in exile were also considered for resettlement in the US. “While repatriation of Burundian refugees remains a priority, we believe that successful repatriation and reintegration of this particular group is not possible,” she commented. “After nearly 35 years in exile, they would face complex and unresolved land issues. Moreover, some refugees believe they are viewed as outsiders and would never be able to fully integrate in Burundi,” she said. She added that those born in exile identify closely with their host country, Tanzania, but it cannot offer them integration either. The resettlement operation is being organized by the US Government, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR. Before their departure from Nairobi, the refugees will undergo an orientation workshop organized by IOM. This will help prepare them for a new life in the US and ease their integration, UNHCR said. Tanzania still hosts some 276,000 refugees, mainly from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 18 May 2007With the assistance of the United Nations refugee agency, the first group of some 8,500 Burundians to be resettled in the United States today left a refugee camp in Tanzania, where they had taken refuge after fleeing mass violence 35 years ago.

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