Burundi refugees should head home and not "expect citizenship" in Tanzania, said Tanzanian President John Maguful. A failed coup and deadly clashes in Burundi had prompted thousands to flee across the border.
Tanzanian military will take command of an airport that the UN refugee agency had used as a center for asylum-seekers, the country's president John Maguful said on Friday. With the authorities working to repatriate Burundi refugees, some of the newcomers were caught trying to flee to the surrounding villages.
"Go back to your home... don't insist on staying in Tanzania as refugees or expect citizenship while Burundi is now stable," Maguful said in a televised speech.
Crimes continue in Burundi
The deadly crisis in neighboring Burundi began in 2015 when the country's strongman leader, Pierre Nkurunziza, announced he would run for a third term despite the constitutional two-term limit. His decision prompted mass protests, clashes, and a failed coup against Nkurunziza. Hundreds of people were killed and thousands of others fled abroad.
The UN estimates some 280,000 refugees -- most of them from Burundi -- were living in Tanzania at the end of 2018. Despite Maguful's claims of stability, a UN investigation last month found that Burundi residents still live under a reign of terror with security forces torturing, raping, and murdering people on political grounds. The investigators warned of signs that new atrocities could be on the way.
'Even Jesus ran' and returned
On Friday, Maguful said: "Tanzania was not created to be a permanent safe haven for people who run from their own countries."
"Even Jesus ran to Egypt as a refugee ... and returned to his land to preach. Why do you want to stay here permanently and not return to your country?" he said.
In August, Burundi and Tanzania agreed to repatriate nearly 200,000 refugees. The actual effort started last week, with both the Tanzanian authorities and the UN officials insisting that repatriations were strictly voluntary. However, some refugees have expressed fear that Tanzanian officials would force them back across the border.
The country is set for a new election in 2020. Nkurunziza has said he would not run again, but many of his opponents and supporters believe he would take part in the race.