THE 16th Tripartite Commission Meeting between the Governments of Burundi and Tanzania, together with UNHCR has agreed on the closure of Mtabila refugee camp for Burundian refugees in Kigoma by 31 December, this year.
The Commission reached the decision in Bujumbura after their meeting last week to discuss lasting solutions for the remaining 38,000 refugees in Mtabila camp who have been living in Kigoma Region since 1993.
A statement released by UNHCR's Public Information Associate, Austin Makani said the Commission noted that the in-depth interview exercise to determine those in continued need for international protection in the Mtabila camp successfully completed on 15 December 2011.
Mr Makani said the interviews concluded that some 2,045 individuals still needed international protection, 33,708 were not in need of international protection and 2,625 cases are pending determination to be further reviewed and finalised before the closure of the camp.
"The tripartite decided that those in need of international protection will remain in Mtabila camp where they will be accommodated in a separate zone and suitable durable solutions will be identified for them," he said. He said in line with international protection standards, persons found not in need of international protection will be given an opportunity to appeal or directly apply for voluntary repatriation.
The tripartite also agreed that persons found not to be in need of international protection and who are unwilling to return to Burundi without justifiable grounds, will find themselves liable to be dealt with under the relevant Tanzanian laws, including those for immigration control and management.
Minister of Home Affairs, Mr Shamsi Vuai Nahodha appealed to the international community and development partners to support Burundi's efforts in the return and reintegration programme, while emphasizing the definitive closure of Mtabila camp by the proposed date.
"It is time now for refugees to return home. I strongly believe that Burundi authorities share the same sentiments as Tanzanian authorities," said Ms Clotilde Niragira, Burundi's Minister of National Solidarity, Human Rights and Gender. She said it is time for Burundians to return home to join their fellow citizens in nation building.
UNHCR strongly supports the request by the Tanzanian government, noting that successful return of Burundian refugees is linked to the smooth and effective reception and reintegration of all returnees. To actively promote repatriation, UNHCR and its partners, supported by the international community, are providing a comprehensive package of assistance to all Burundian refugees opting to return to their home country.
The package includes a cash grant, food and non-food items for their reintegration. The returnees are also benefiting from additional educational and free health services being provided for them on return.