Returning to stability? Refugee returns in the Great Lakes region

East Africa
International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI)
Burundi Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Tanzania, Rwanda,

After decades of conflict and violence, the Great Lakes region of Africa remains one of the areas of the world most affected by forced displacement. Most of the countries in this region host refugees but have also seen their own citizens seek refuge in neighbouring countries. Voluntary repatriation is generally seen by regional and international actors as the preferred solution to these displacement crises. But returnees rarely come home to political stability and security, and return migration can itself complicate the situation in return zones.

This report describes how the return of refugees has affected conflict dynamics and relations with local authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Burundi. Based on field research in south-western Burundi, Faradje (north-eastern DRC) and Kalehe (eastern DRC), it describes what return means – both for returnees and for people who didn’t migrate. Aside from the logistics of crossing borders and the alleviation of immediate material needs, it analyses how interventions by international agencies and their local counterparts affect the politics of return.

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