Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

Tanzania: 2,000 Burundian Refugees Will Not Be Repatriated - Official

SOME 2,000 Burundian refugees out of 38,000 camped at Mtabila in Kasulu District, Kigoma Region since 1993 will not be repatriated due to various factors including security reasons.

After a thorough cross examination it was discovered that 36,000 Burundian refugees had no reasons to continue staying in Tanzania while Burundi has already become a favourable place to call home.

Home Affairs Ministry spokesperson, Mr Isaac Nantanga said during an interview that those who were found to have convincing reasons to continue taking refuge in the country were transferred to Nyarugusu camp in the same region.

Nyarugusu camp was established to accommodate refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) following civil wars that dominated some parts of the country.

The decision to step up a voluntary repatriation and close down the camp by the end of the year was agreed by both governments of Tanzania and Burundi under concession of the United Nations Refugees agency, UNHCR. Repatriation operation that was embarked on following conclusions reached during the talks held in Bujumbura in February 22, this year by the respective countries' representatives only saw some few refugees showing willingness to go back home.

He said: "The decision came after a tripartite commission meeting between the two governments with the United Nations Refugees agency." Such reluctance thereafter forced the government of Tanzania to invalidate their status as refugees effective August 1, this year.

"By December 31, this year, all refugees are supposed to be in their home country -- Burundi, failure to do so they will be regarded as illegal immigrants and whoever found to be under that category will be dealt with in accordance with the law," Mr Nantanga explained.

Commenting on the progress of the repatriation operation, Mr Nantanga said the exercise was progressing well as a large number of refugees had already been sent back home. As of yesterday, he said that 24,867 out of 36,000 refugees have been repatriated with only a small number remaining.

He, however, said that the number only includes those who were transported by the government while the reality on the ground showed that there were others who started the journey on their own thus the number was likely to be higher than that. He said that the operation was still on-the-go thus it was the ministry's hope that by the end of the year, everything will be on track as planned.

The Deputy Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Pereira Amme Silima, also told the 'Daily News' over the weekend that Burundi was now enjoying peaceful atmosphere thus it was illogical to continue accommodating such refugees.

He said that UNHCR, Burundi and Tanzania reached a compromise that upon reaching in Burundi, the refugees will be given all basic needs including food free of charge for a period of six months.

Mr Silima said that the repatriation operation has been thorny for most of the refugees still have displaced mentalities that the authorities were not serious for they have been speaking of repatriation but did not implement it.

"This time around we are serious, they must be back to their home countries, and it is true that we have been singing the song for a long time without implementation, we are now convinced that Burundi is safe and they must go back," he said.

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