“The refugees tell us that orderly communal elections at the end of June – nearly the last step in a long transition to peace and democracy – gave them the confidence to return home after up to nine years in exile,” Jennifer Pagonis, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said in Geneva today. Whereas in June and July the number of Burundians coming home to the south of the country was in the range of 600 to 800 a week, Ms Pagonis said, last week alone UNHCR helped more than 4,200 (3,600 from Tanzania and 600 from Rwanda) return to three southern provinces. In August, the agency estimates the number returning to these areas on UNHCR convoys from Tanzania will total 20,000 – more than six times the 3,116 who came home in June. “UNHCR is not actively promoting return to Burundi, but we do help any refugees who want to go home voluntarily,” Ms Pagonis said. Refugees get transportation from the Tanzanian camps back to their home villages. She said that once back in Burundi they are given goods to help them restart their life, including a three-month supply of food, as well as plastic sheeting, mats, blankets, cloth, sanitary materials, kitchen sets, jerry cans, soap and a hoe, since most of them are farmers. UNHCR is also building schools and providing roofing materials for individual returnee houses, and funding other projects to help the local community absorb the returning refugees. Since 2002, more than 250,000 Burundian refugees have gone home, mainly from Tanzania. There are still some 238,000 Burundian refugees in Tanzanian camps, and another 198,000 living in settlements in the west of the country.