GENEVA - The International Organization for Migration said it has voluntarily repatriated 1,666 Burundian refugees in Tanzania over the past two weeks.
More than 400,000 Burundian refugees have fled to eight neighboring countries since violence surged in Burundi in 2015. The International Organization for Migration said the bulk of the refugees, nearly 280,000, went to Tanzania. It said about 80 percent of the refugees are women and children.
The agency reports some 12,000 refugees have asked the government of Tanzania and the U.N. refugee agency for help to get home. IOM spokesman Joel Millman told VOA the refugees say they believe their areas of origin are safe and they want to return to their homes in Burundi.
He said he cannot assess potential dangers.
"It is impossible to speculate on reprisals or anything else before we actually undertake the return," he said. "But community dialogue sessions with members of the host communities will be held in areas to where more people have returned. The dialogue sessions will include some job training and cash-for work projects, and, of course instructions on gender-based violence and safeguards against trafficking."
On Thursday, the U.N. migration agency completed the first phase of this voluntary repatriation operation.A second phase of assisted returns is expected to begin in November and run until the end of the year.
But Millman said $450,000 is needed to transport the many thousands who have voluntarily registered to return home from Tanzania.
In addition, he said the IOM is appealing for more than $3 million to provide transportation, shelter, reintegration activities and other essential assistance once the refugees have arrived in Burundi.