10 August 2012

Tanzania: UNHCR Reassures Burundi Refugees

THE United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has reassured Burundi refugees scheduled for resettlement back home before Mtabila camp closes.

In a statement availed to the media in Dar es Salaam, UNHCR encouraged Burundian refugees residing in Mtabila to return home before the camp officially closes on 31 December, 2012.

"We stand ready to provide transportation, as well as to support their proper integration once they are back in Burundi. The integration package includes a cash grant, six months of food rations as well as health, education and shelter support," reads part of the statement.

It further says, the Government of Tanzania, last week, declared the end of refugee status for 38,050 Burundians found to no longer be in need of international protection and announced the closure of the Mtabila camp, where most of them are staying, by the end of the year.

"The government declaration on 1st August follows nine months of a thorough individual interview process jointly conducted by Tanzania and UNHCR at Mtabila and Nyarugusu camps which determined persons who are no longer in need of international protection due to an improvement in conditions in Burundi," reads the release.

During the review process, however, 2,715 Burundian refugees in Mtabila and Nyaragusu camps were found to be in continued need of international protection, the statement added.

In line with the 1951 Refugee Convention, these are persons who continue to have a well-founded fear of persecution, despite the general positive changes in the country of origin or who had compelling reasons arising out of previous persecution in the country for not returning to Burundi.

UNHCR welcomes commitment by the Tanzanian government to continue to afford them sanctuary until more suitable and permanent solutions are identified.

"Most of these individuals have already been transferred to Nyarugusu camp. We also thank the government of Tanzania for keeping Mtabila open until the end of the year, thereby allowing residents whose refugee status has now come to an end to voluntarily return home in a safe and dignified manner," reads the statement.

UNHCR will be working with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and other partners to facilitate this movement. Meanwhile, UNHCR and partners will continue to provide basic humanitarian services at the camp until it shuts down.

The closure of Mtabila camp will mark the final conclusion of the longstanding Burundian refugee chapter in Tanzania, which since its independence in 1961 has hosted more than 641,000 Burundian refugees who fled from civil strife in the early 1970s and again the 1990s.

In the wake of a successful peace process in Burundi, UNHCR and Tanzania have been working closely on a comprehensive durable solution and strategy which has seen the naturalization of 162,152 Burundian refugees and the repatriation of some 417,709 since 2002. A total of 12,483 other Burundian refugees were resettled to third countries from 2005 to 2011.

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