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UN Refugee Agency Nearly Out Of Money for Burundian Repatriation

The UN refugee agency says it is running out of money for repatriating Burundian refugees, the largest repatriation operation in Africa. It says there’s been little response to its emergency appeal for funds made early this year.

Marie Ellen Vernay is a spokesperson for the UNHCR. From Geneva, she spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the status of the Burundi repatriation operation.

She says, “UNHCR is very worried that within days really it may have to suspend its voluntary repatriation operation for Burundian refugees, most of them in Tanzania. We’re talking about 400,000 people, many of them wanting to go home, because we have very simply run out of money. We may have to suspend at least the operation. We launched an appeal for $62 million this year for the repatriation of Burundian refugees. Out of that appeal we got $29 million, which is less than half of what we need.”

The appeal was made late last year and the amount was meant to cover all of 2005.

“Naturally, we realized earlier this year that there were problems, that we were not getting enough. And we on several occasions appealed and warned that we would run into difficulties. It’s particularly disappointing because this year Burundi has seen a lot of positive developments. With the election of the president in August a lot of refugees feel that Burundi is now more secure and that now is a good time to go home. We’ve noticed a big increase in the number of people who have repatriated since August, some 15,000 every month. And it really puts us in a very difficult and very sad position.”