Tanzania: Refugees Ask Government to Rethink Decision On Closure of Open Markets

REFUGEES in Kigoma Region have appealed to the government to reconsider its decision to close down open markets used by refugees and host communities because it has affected them in terms of sources of livelihoods.

They said their engagement in businesses helped them to support their families by providing them with necessities.

The refugees raised the concern recently during a visit by UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Operations George Okoth Obbo at Mtendeli and Nduta refugee camps in Kigoma Region.

One of the refugees, Ms Estella Ntunzwenimana, said the closure of the markets nearby the camps had affected them a lot because they were no longer earning anything to support their families.

"The businesses used to help us to earn incomes and support our families, but we are now facing difficulties after their closure. This situation has also increased violence against women in camps because they can no longer assist their families ...women were previously engaging income generating activities, such as basket-making," she said.

Responding, Director of Refugee Services in the Ministry of Home Affairs Sudi Mwakibasi said the government had closed down the markets due to security reasons.

Mr Mwakibasi said the government closed all the markets in and outside refugee camps due to security reasons.

He said the refugees were remaining with small markets in the camps which they could use to sell their goods.

"You should use these small markets in your camps to sell your goods," he said.

In February last year, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa closed down an open market at Nduta Refugee Camp in Kibondo District to control refugees from going outside the camp.

The Premier while on his tour of Kigoma Region directed the closure of the market after intelligence reports indicated that the market was a catalyst for refugees to run away from Nduta Refugee Camp in Kibondo District and engage in criminal acts.

"Criminal acts in Kibondo District, including kidnapping of children, are on the increase, wreaking havoc on residents," Mr Majaliwa said when addressing a rally.

He also urged government and private employees overseeing refugee camps in Kigoma Region to be diligent in their responsibilities.

"Refugees were taking advantage of the market to go outside the camp and sometimes engage in crime. Kibondo has of recent recorded an increase in the number of kidnapped children," he said.

He urged the district authorities to come up with a plan which would allow people to sell their goods in the camp.

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