Maputo — The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), citing the Mozambican border authorities, says that in May Tanzanian forcibly expelled almost 3,800 Mozambicans who were seeking refuge from terrorist attacks against Palma district, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.
In its latest update on the Cabo Delgado situation, UNHCR says that the fleeing Mozambicans were simply taken back across the Rovuma river, and left at the Negomano border post on the Mozambican bank of the river.
"Most of those forcibly returned families are spontaneously travelling to other districts in Cabo Delgado, Niassa and Nampula provinces", adds the UNHCR, since Mueda district, where Negomano is located, "is perceived as an unsafe location".
UNHCR interviewed refugees at the Negomano border and in Mueda town, who confirmed "systematic and recurrent refoulement (the deportation of people to a country where they face threats to their life or freedom)".
Most of the recent surge in refugees fleeing from their homes is the result of the 24 March attack by islamist terrorists against Palma town. The UNHCR says that, as of 28 May, 62,000 people from Palma were forcibly displaced (this figure must include, not only the town, but also the outlying areas that form Palma district).
The UNHCR shies away from terms such as "terrorist" and describes the attackers as "non-state armed groups".
The UNHCR notes that families are continuing to seek escape from insecurity in Palma, by land, sea and air, to areas regarded as safe - mostly the provincial capital, Pemba, and Mueda, Nangade and Montepuez districts.
It notes that, even before the Palma attack, an estimated 700,000 people had been displaced from their homes. They sought refuge, not only in other Cabo Delgado districts, but in the neighbouring provinces of Niassa and Nampula, and some even made their way further south to Zambezia and Sofala.
The UNHCR urges "neighbouring countries" (by which it clearly means Tanzania, since no other country borders on Cabo Delgado) "to respect access to asylum for those fleeing widespread violence and armed conflict in northern Mozambique".
It warns that "the humanitarian situation continues deteriorating and urgent assistance is needed to address the needs of those fleeing violence".