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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Refugee crisis looms as East Africa drought worsens

Save the Children warns that tens of thousands of people are fleeing drought-hit areas of eastern Africa - with millions more under threat - as conditions become increasingly "dire".
Around 20,000 have arrived at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya in the last two weeks - many having trekked for more than a month across parched areas of Somalia, Ethiopia and eastern and northern areas of Kenya itself.
"We are seeing around 1,300 people arriving in Dadaab every day, some in incredibly dire situations," said the director of Save the Children's Kenya programme, Catherine Fitzgibbon.
Dadaab is the world's largest refugee camp - built to house 90,000 people but already having to cope with four times that number. It has become the third largest settlement in the country and is beginning to struggle to cope.
Around two-thirds of the most recent arrivals are children, according to figures from UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency.
Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the UNHCR, said that growing numbers of refugees were settling outside the camp boundaries, with another 50,000 - mostly women and children - living in areas which were not structured and could be vulnerable to seasonal flooding.
"UNHCR is working with the Kenyan authorities and other aid agencies to respond to the latest crisis and to increased malnutrition among the new arrivals," she said. "We and our partners are working around the clock to ensure that people are registered and quickly have access to assistance."

Save the Children staff who works in the camp report that the children are arriving in an "exhausted, malnourished and severely dehydrated" condition.
"Children have made long journeys in terrifying conditions, often losing their families along the way and arriving at the camps in desperate need of security, health care and a normal life," said Catherine Fitzgibbon.
"Nearly every child or parent we have spoken to says they are not just fleeing fighting in Somalia - the drought and food crisis are equally perilous to them now."
Fatuma spent six weeks walking to Dadaab with her four children from their home in Somalia. By the time they reached Dadaab, the children's feet were covered in blood, sand and blisters.
"The weather was very harsh. It was so hot and there was very little shelter," she told the charity. "I left my husband in Somalia. I do not know if I will see him again."
She said the well in her village and in the neighbouring village had both run dry. "We had animals - 15 goats," she added. "But they died - one by one - because of the drought. There was nothing for them to eat.
"After all the goats had died I had to ask other people to give us food. It was hard because they also had no food to give."

East Africa: If you're Somali, don't bother to look for a job

The Chairman of Somali United Community, Mohamed Ahmed is escorting the Somali Commuinity in the the Parade of Australian Day on 26th of Janaury 2011, Photo by Babul Nor

Abdulkadir Shire and Ali-nur Duale are masters of disguise. The two Somali men, now in their 50s, have spent more than 30 years between them applying for jobs in Melbourne.
Their tactics have ranged from the shrewd (omitting their nationality and native language on CVs) to the downright devious ("de-Arabising" their first names by replacing them with initials). But their real skill is one that not many people would think of bringing to the job market: making themselves look unintelligent on paper.
They call it "downskilling": cutting from their résumés any hint of a qualification or achievement that might make them appear too smart for the jobs they're applying for. In Duale's case, that means a PhD in applied entomology and a distinguished career developing crop protection programs across Africa and India. In Shire's case, it's a Masters in petrochemical engineering and a diploma from Victoria University.
But for both men, the game is officially now up.
Last October, after 17 years and more than 300 failed job applications, Shire packed his bags and moved to Brisbane, where he is helping his wife start a family daycare business. Dr Duale is resigned to continue working as a casual interpreter for a refugee translation service.
"People say 'Why can't you get a decent job, with all your qualifications?'" says Duale, who is often described in his community as "the most qualified Somali in Australia." "And I have to lie and tell them I just want to do something to help my own people. I've even told my children this untruth."
No one has yet done a study to measure the lost potential to Australia in terms of professional achievements or international standing in allowing so many of our best and brightest residents to work as drivers, translators or cleaners.
The 'PhDs driving taxis' headlines have come and gone, but to this day, hundreds of experienced doctors, accountants and engineers are still driving cabs and doing menial part-time jobs to sustain their families and relatives overseas on fickle hourly wages. Hundreds more have given up entirely, resigning themselves to a perpetual life in the slow lane.
Africans, the newest, most foreign group in our cultural melting pot, are invariably suffering the most. Some say it's always been this way: that the waves of Greeks, Italians, Lebanese and Vietnamese who arrived between the 1950s and '80s all struggled just as hard to find sustainable jobs. But the evidence strongly suggests otherwise.
For Somali-Australians, being black and Muslim and with the additional stigma of coming from the world's most corrupt country, the chances of finding full-time work - let alone a respectable white-collar job - are arguably the lowest in the Western world.
In a country that lays claim to having one of the most robust and egalitarian job markets anywhere, the words "fair go" remain a mockery for hundreds of eternally unemployed Somali professionals.
When Lindsay Tanner, former Finance Minister and Federal Member for Melbourne, resigned last June, many members of Victoria's African community felt they had lost one of their own.
Not only was Tanner the most high-profile critic of the hardening of Labour's asylum seeker policies, he was also the most visible and vocal of the country's pro-African 'champions' - a regular guest at community events, and loud advocate for greater training and job opportunities among the country's least employed migrant communities.
Just a week before his resignation, Tanner launched a report by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) that found evidence of anti-African sentiment in virtually every sphere of public life.
Of course, you don't give up such conviction easily. Within weeks, Tanner was back to assisting two Melbourne-based projects he is particularly close to: the Corporate Leaders Network's (CLN's) African-Australian Project, through which 10 high-profile companies -- including NAB, IBM, BHP and Telstra -- have committed to develop training and placement opportunities for African-Australians; and the Horn-Afrik Employment, Training and Advocacy Project, a homespun initiative with 250 'Horn of Africans' -- migrants from Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Somalia -- on its books.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Young refugees hope for better times

Young refugees find themselves at the cross hairs of numerous challenges and require supportive structures to help them survive in their adopted countries

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Claudine Singirankabo, a 27-year- old Burundian refugee, calls Kenya her home and has no immediate plans to relocate to her country of birth to avoid reconnecting with some tragic memories.
Claudine was born a refugee in Rwanda in 1984 and has since roamed with her parents and siblings to several countries in the East Africa region in search of a safe haven.
The petite singer and coordinator of Nairobi based Burundi African Dancers, which draws membership from Rwandese, Burundian and Congolese refugees settled in Kenya; candidly tell of the tragedies and triumphs that defines her life’s journey.
“My mother and father met at a refugee camp in Rwanda where I was born in 1984. Six years later, we went back to Burundi only for war to break out after one and a half years.
“We finally found refuge in Kenya where my siblings and I have lived with mum since 1993,” Claudine told Xinhua during the World Refugee Day celebrations held in Nairobi on Monday.
She is the last born in a family of seven that is now headed by her mother since the father disappeared without trace when they were toddlers.
The embrace of Kenyan communities has kept the embers of hope burning in the souls of Claudine and her fellow young refugees from the Great Lakes region.
She feels part of the Kenyan social fabric having schooled in Nairobi at both elementary and tertiary levels of education.
“Immediately we settled in Kenya, I went to a French speaking school near Serena hotel and later on, a group of Burundian refugees opened Hope International School where English was taught to cater for children and their minders,” says Claudine.
She expresses satisfaction on quality of education obtained in those schools.
“We were able to choose a career path and encouraged to chase our dreams to whatever levels,” Claudine muses.
The dancing troupes that she coordinates is composed of 15 members and carry out a range of activities ranging from dancing, outside catering as well as peer to peer education.

Claudine reiterates that young refugees find themselves at the cross hairs of numerous challenges and require supportive structures to help them survive in their adopted countries.
She points at culture shock, harassment by the authorities and hostility from host communities as some of the challenges that most refugees encounter.
Claudine is optimistic that the Kenyan government will recognize and reward the efforts of refugees to foster communal harmony and contribute to national development.
Greater access to social amenities that include education and health for refugees will unlock their potential to benefit the host country.
Halima, a 24-year-old Somali refuge who has lived in Kenya since 1992 after civil war broke out in the horn of Africa Nation, is emphatic that empowered refugees are an asset to their adopted countries.
Halima currently stays in Nairobi with friends but her parents are back in Somalia .
“I went through primary and secondary education in the camps but have now graduated from a private university,” says Halima
She regrets that “Refugees in camps have suffered due to lack of education and quality healthcare. University places are very limited and employment opportunities are quite elusive to refugees. “
Halima urged the Kenyan authorities to initiate better equipped schools and health facilities in refugee camps to boost their livelihood.
She adds that “Lack of education and citizenship are the greatest problems facing refugees in Kenya .”
Having obtained a degree in social sciences in a Kenyan private university, Halima hopes to utilize her skills and empower fellow refugees in all facets of life.
For Sebatonya Lutandala, 30- year old Congolese refugee, life in his new abode has not been smooth sailing but fortitude, hope and courage have combined to reverse the tragic course.
Lutandala, who has stayed in Kenya for the last three years, fled the government clampdown on his Banyamulenge tribe in Bukavu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo).
Young Congolese refugees residing in Kenya are a close knit community that looks at the welfare of every member.
Lutandala says that greatest concern among his peers is to find a steady source of income.
He reveals that “We mostly do odd jobs such as washing clothes for a fee and a range of menial work in the Industrial area.”
A significant number of Congolese refugees eke out a living through performing arts.
 As a member of a singing quartet, Lutadala joins his peers to do live bands in various entertainment spots in Nairobi.


Field Unit Ulyankulu- Tabora Field Officer Mr Belai Ghebre-egzabiher (left) and Associate Programme Officer, Ms Annette Kazungu at the Tabora Girls Secondary School where the UNHCR has built staff quarters, classrooms for visibly impaired students, dormitories and a water pump.

 Newly constructed classrooms that are user friendly to children with various disabilities at the Tabora Girld Secondary School. UNHCR has built the classrooms with the hope that newly naturalised refugees that will be intgerated will have the opportunity of being enrolled.

Tabora Girls School corridor insists that students school speak. The school hasn't received any form of maintenance for decades and in tatters despite providing education for some top government officials. Much as the UNHCR is rehabilitating it, the government could play a bigger role.

Hamis Jonas, a resident of Mkindu Village in the Ulyankulu Old Settlement talks to journalists about his unwillings to be shifted out of Tabora as part of the integrated process for newly naturalised Tanzanians who were former Burundian refugees. Many complained that the amount (300,000/- per head) for relocation is too small. They however have nothing against the integration process.

Associate Programme Officer, Ms Annette Kazungu attentively listens to mzee Elmas Ntundue, a blind and feeble resident of one of the villages of the Ulyankulu Settlement in Tabora. Vulnerable families will be given special consideration during the integration process.

Tobacco farmer, Bisman Nfitie displays to visiting journalists (not in the picture) Grade A tobacco leaves. Bisman like many former Burundian refugees would like to remain in Tabora region and not be relocated to another region because tobacco farming is his only trade. In 2010, he earned 2.4m/- from his trade.

UNHCR guest house, home to Field Unit Ulyankulu- Tabora Field Officer Mr Belai Ghebre-egzabiher

Field Unit Ulyankulu- Tabora Field Officer Mr Belai Ghebre-egzabiher was find enough to share this meal fit for kings and queens with the press mission that visited Tabora, Mpanda and Kasulu mid May this year.

'Dramatic rise' in Somali refugees in Kenya

2011-06-25 Geneva - More than 20,000 Somalis have fled to Kenya's overcrowded Dadaab camp in the past two weeks, the UN refugee agency said on Friday, highlighting the "shocking conditions and state of the people" who had arrived.
"There's been a dramatic rise" in the number of refugees, said Melissa Fleming, spokesperson of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
"Not only is the number of cases shocking. It's the conditions, it's the state of the people as they arrive," she added.
Having walked for days to flee unrest and a "horrible drought", the refugees were arriving at the camp exhausted and suffering from malnutrition, said Fleming.
Severe overcrowding at Dadaab, which was built for 90 000 but is now host to over 360 000 people, is also a problem.
The UNHCR said it has been unable to provide new plots for refugees who are therefore settling outside the camp.
The protracted conflict in Somalia has led to massive displacements, including 750 000 who have sought refuge in the region, and another 1.46 million who have been displaced within the country.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

UNHCR report: 80% of world’s refugees in developing countries

A UNHCR report released today reveals deep imbalance in international support for the world’s forcibly displaced, with a full four-fifths of the world’s refugees being hosted by developing countries - and at a time of rising anti-refugee sentiment in many industrialized ones.

UNHCR’s 2010 Global Trends report shows that many of the world’s poorest countries are hosting huge refugee populations, both in absolute terms and in relation to the size of their economies. Pakistan, Iran, and Syria have the largest refugee populations at 1.9 million, 1.1 million, and 1 million respectively.

Pakistan also has the biggest economic impact with 710 refugees for each dollar of its per capita GDP (PPP) followed by Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya.with 475 and 247 refugees respectively. By comparison Germany, the industralized country with the largest refugee population (594,000 people), has 17 refugees for each dollar of per capita GDP.

Overall, the picture presented by the 2010 report is of a drastically changed protection environment to that of 60 years ago when the UN refugee agency was founded. At that time UNHCR’s caseload was 2.1 million Europeans, uprooted by World War Two.

Today, UNHCR’s work extends to more than 120 countries and encompasses people forced to flee across borders as well as those in flight within their own countries. The 2010 Global Trends report shows that 43.7 million people are now displaced worldwide - roughly equalling the entire populations of Colombia or South Korea, or of Scandinavia and Sri Lanka combined.

Within this total are 15.4 million refugees (10.55 million under UNHCR’s care and 4.82 million registered with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees), 27.5 million people displaced internally by conflict, and nearly 850,000 asylum-seekers, nearly one fifth of them in South Africa alone.

 Particularly distressing are the 15,500 asylum applications by unaccompanied or separated children, most of them Somali or Afghan. The report does not cover displacement seen during 2011, including from Libya, Côte d’Ivoire, and Syria.

“In today’s world there are worrying misperceptions about refugee movements and the international protection paradigm,” said António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees and head of UNHCR. “Fears about supposed floods of refugees in industrialized countries are being vastly overblown or mistakenly conflated with issues of migration. Meanwhile it’s poorer countries that are left having to pick up the burden.”

Extended wars mean extended exile

Reflecting the prolonged nature of several of today’s major international conflicts, the report finds that the refugee experience is becoming increasingly drawn-out for millions of people worldwide. UNHCR defines a protracted refugee situation as one in which a large number of people are stuck in exile for five years or longer.

In 2010, and of the refugees under UNHCR’s mandate, 7.2 million people were in such a situation - more than at any time since 2001. Meanwhile only 197,600 people were able to return home, the lowest number since 1990. 

Some refugees have been in exile for more than 30 years. Afghans, who first fled the Soviet invasion in 1979, accounted for a third of the world’s refugees in both 2001 and in 2010. Iraqis, Somalis, Congolese (DRC) and Sudanese were also among the top 10 nationalities of refugees at both the start and end of the decade.

“One refugee without hope is too many,” said High Commissioner Guterres. “The world is failing these people, leaving them to wait out the instability back home and put their lives on hold indefinitely. Developing countries cannot continue to bear this burden alone and the industrialized world must address this imbalance. We need to see increased resettlement quotas. We need accelerated peace initiatives in long-standing conflicts so that refugees can go home.”

Internally displaced - highest in a decade

Despite the low level of refugee returns last year, the situation for people displaced within their own countries - so-called Internally Displaced People - showed some movement. In 2010, more than 2.9 million IDPs returned home in countries including Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and Kyrgyzstan. Nonetheless even with these return levels, at 27.5 million people the global number of internally displaced was the highest in a decade.

A further but harder-to-quantify group that UNHCR cares for is stateless people, or people lacking the basic safety-net of a nationality. The number of countries reporting stateless populations has increased steadily since 2004, but differences in definitions and methodologies still prevent reliable measurement of the problem.

In 2010, the reported number of stateless people (3.5 million) was nearly half of that in 2009, but mainly due to methodological changes in some countries that supply data. Unofficial estimates put the global number closer to 12 million. UNHCR will be launching a worldwide campaign in August this year to bring better attention to the plight of the world’s stateless and to accelerate action to help them.

World Refugee Day 2011

Message from Mr. Oluseyi Bajulaiye, UNHCR Representative for Tanzania

Each year on 20 June World Refugee Day is commemorated all over the world. It is a day to honour the spirit and courage of millions of refugees worldwide and to recognize their contributions in their host communities.

It is also the one day of the year that UNHCR and the refugees have the attention of the world’s media to raise awareness and understanding on their behalf.

Everyone can be a refugee! 

This is a persistent message that UNHCR, since its creation 60 years ago, has been delivering to the world while addressing the humanitarian consequences of armed conflicts. It is UNHCR's mission to ensure protection and find solutions for refugees in partnership with governments and civil society organizations. 

While most of the countries in the Great Lakes Region have suffered ethnic and civil conflict, Tanzania has remained generally peaceful. For this reason and for the generosity and kindness for decades, the country hosted the largest refugee population in Africa - over half a million refugees in the past.

The number of refugees hosted in the camps in North-western Tanzania has decreased very significantly in recent years thanks to the Government and UNHCR’s focus on finding durable solutions for the refugee population. 

Since 2002, over 500,000 Burundian and Congolese camp refugees were assisted to voluntarily repatriate, others were given the possibility to resettle in third countries.

The pursuit of durable solutions went further when the government took the unprecedented decision to grant citizenship to some 162,000 Burundian refugees who fled their country in 1972 and settled in the three settlements of Katumba, Mishamo, and Ulyankulu in Rukwa and Tabora regions.

Our slogan for this year's refugee day is “1 of us: A Refugee yesterday, A Citizen today” is intended to acknowledge the generosity and hospitality of Tanzania in giving this population the opportunity to locally integrate in the country that they call their home.

‘1 of Us’ because the majority of the naturalized 1972 Burundians were born and educated in Tanzania and have lived here for almost 40 years. ‘1 of Us’ because they will have the same rights and obligations as all Tanzanian citizens.

Lastly, ‘1 of Us’ because the new citizens with their gradual integration into local Tanzanian communities across the country will contribute to local socio-economic development.  It is a globally accepted fact that diversity and enrichment of population often stimulate growth and development.  

In the case of the newly naturalised Tanzanians, they are very good traders, a lot of them running businesses and exporting food and non-food crops outside the settlements. The food crops - mainly maize, millet, cassava, rice and beans - grown by the new citizens in the settlements make up a considerable proportion of the arable produce available at market in Tabora and Rukwa regions, and contribute significantly to food security in central Tanzania.

In Mishamo alone 6,000 tons of tobacco was produced in 2009/2010 which equalled 1.5bn/- tax revenue for the Government of Tanzania.

Over the past year the Prime Minister’s Office for Regional Administration and Local Governments has launched the National Strategy for local integration of this population.

Preparations for the relocation have already started and the Government supported by UNHCR is informing local authorities and the receiving communities about the program as it is their hospitality that will make the new citizens feel like “1 of us”.

Some 800 naturalisation certificates have been issued, largely to those already living in urban areas doing business and studying, while the rest will be issued once those living in the settlements have reached their final destination in the regions selected for relocation by the Government. 

UNHCR hopes that other states will recognize the vision and foresightedness of the Tanzanian Government in granting citizenship to refugees in long and protracted situations with required commitment and support from international community in view of the burden such initiatives poses.  

Lastly, UNHCR is also actively involved in the One UN Joint Programme "Transition from Humanitarian Assistance to Sustainable Development in North-western Tanzania", where the UN Refugee agency is mandated to assure that assets formerly used in the closed refugee camps are converted into structures for the local communities, such as the rehabilitation or construction of schools, health centres and youth development centres. 

The Joint Programme is encapsulated in the new UN Development Assistance Plan (UNDAP) from June 2011 onwards with the aim to have one single voice among 20 different UN agencies.

World Refugee Day 2011

Statement by the UN Resident Coordinator
Mr. Alberic Kacou

Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
UNHCR Representative for Tanzania, Oluseyi Bajulaiye,
UN Colleagues,
Newly Naturalized Tanzanian, Grace Samson,
Refugees and former refugees,
 Members of the Media,
Children and Students, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening.

On behalf of the entire United Nations Country Team, I wish to express gratitude to the organizers and sponsors of this important event. As you know, Tanzania plays an important role for refugees in the region.  For over 4 decades this nation has hosted thousands of people fleeing conflicts in neighboring countries. The act of receiving people in a moment of extreme vulnerability is rooted in a shared humanity - and a shared belief that there are no tolerable levels of suffering.  Tanzania’s generosity should be applauded and supported.

I would like to share with you the message of the United Nations Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon on this occasion:

I quote:

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention.  It is also 60 years since UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, was established.  In that time the work of helping the world’s refugees and other forcibly displaced people has neither decreased nor become easier.

Then as now, the major cause of displacement is war.  Prolonged conflicts or instability in places such as Somalia, Iraq or Afghanistan, and unfolding crises in North Africa and the Middle East, are among the contributors to the current world population of almost 44 million forcibly displaced people.
End of quote:

The Secretary-General goes on to remind us, however, that our world is increasingly more complex. As a result, so are the reasons why people are forced to abandon their homes— often taking life-imperiling means and routes—in search of peace, stability and a livelihood.

Again, I quote:

But, in today’s world, the reasons for displacement are more diverse.  Whereas traditionally UNHCR would be called on to support people escaping conflict or persecution, people are increasingly fleeing their homes because of extreme poverty, environmental degradation, climate change and the growing and complex interrelationship between these factors and conflict.

End of quote

To give you a sense of how much the landscape has shifted, let me share this little known fact: While some sixty years ago Europe was home to most of the world’s refuges, today the vast majority are hosted and cared for in developing countries, like Tanzania.

Again, I quote the Secretary-General:

 The burden of helping the world’s forcibly displaced people is starkly uneven.  Poor countries host vastly more displaced people than wealthier ones.  While anti-refugee sentiment is heard loudest in industralized countries, developing nations host 80 per cent of the world’s refugees.  This situation demands an equitable solution.

End of quote.

And in Tanzania, the Government of Tanzania, with support from the United Nations, has chosen to go a step further than simply hosting refugees. 364,000 Burundi and 66,000 Congolese camp refugees have been assisted in returning home beginning in 2002 and 2005 respectively. In addition, Government has decided to naturalize over 162,000 former Burundian refugees living in old settlements in the Tabora and Rukwa regions.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me end by sharing the final words from the Secretary General for this year’s World refugee Day:

No-one wants to become a refugee.  No-one should have to endure this humiliating and arduous ordeal.  Yet, millions do.  Even one refugee forced to flee, one refugee forced to return to danger is one too many.  On this year’s World Refugee Day, I ask people everywhere to spare a thought for the millions of children, women and men who have been forced from their homes, who are at risk of their lives, and who, in most cases, want nothing more than to return home or to start afresh.  Let us never lose sight of our shared humanity.

Thank you for your attention. 

Harmful practices worry refugee women

CONGOLESE women living in Nyarugusu refugee camp in Kasulu District are living in fear. They are scared of returning to their homeland because of their refusal to accept prevailing traditional practices involving human compensation.

"The continuing practices of human compensation and wife inheritance are among the biggest causes of gender based violence (GBV) and other forms of domestic disputes in the camp. However, we are keen on eliminating the practices," Ms Viola Makame said.

The Assistant Community Services Officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Kasulu, Ms Makame, told the Daily News during a recent press mission that the UN organ and the government, has started prosecuting offenders.

Human compensation is a culture being practised in Congo where a female child is handed over to the bridegroom's side if the groom becomes a widower before he completes paying dowry.

Ms Makame said that dowries in the camps go up to 1,000 US dollars. She added that the fine can rise up to 1,500 dollars for those who are graduates.

She said that Tanzanian laws prohibit any forms of human trafficking or their selling as well as wife inheritance which is another problem that is common in the camps and the government will not tolerate any more occurrences.

"We are making steady progress in educating those still practising by informing them that it is an outdated tradition but the women are receiving a lot of pressure from Congo and are scared of returning because of the threats of revenge they are getting," she said.

The GVB Refugee Supervisor, Madame Chabumbwa Sela, said that human compensation has a big impact on the culture in Congo and is still well embedded though more and more people in the camp now consider it outdated.

Madame Sela said the vice has many negative social implications whereby the 'inherited' daughter very often ends up being married, not loved, mistreated and it is common that the husband torments her by telling her that she was only given out and has no value.

"For a long time we have left their disputes to be handled by traditional and cultural councils where we only oversee but after seeing the continued human rights abuse, legal action needs to be instituted," she said.

She said that through engaging women, it has been learnt that there have been numerous threats of revenge when they return and that many women are opting to remain in the camps to avoid being taken back.

Madame Sela said that in spite of the mass advocacy being conducted, GBV cases are still taking place though not as numerous.

Between January and April 2011 the camp recorded 35 cases of domestic violence mainly associated with wife battery, 89 cases of violence related to human compensation and wife inheritance and six rape cases.

She said that their biggest achievement so far in the fight against all forms of GBV in the camp is the formation of a men's association who have reformed and spoken out against the old traditions as being outdated and cruel.

"The only way we can change cultures is through men participation and to get role models as we have done.

The start of fatherhood campaigns has become very successful and we hope they will help change the mindsets of many more people," she said.

UNHCR has designed a programme especially for women with special needs who have been domestically violated to return to Congo for fear that they will be abused again when they get back.


Hail to the courageous refugees of the world

It takes courage to be a refugee. Just another catchword? Absolutely not. It is not quite clear to the average person but someone who has had the distinguished honour of visiting the existing refugee camps in the country including the Old Settlements and had the chance to see and mingle with the people there, you get to understand and appreciate that it does indeed take courage, and loads of it for the matter, to be refugee.

There are exactly 38,076 Burundi refugees currently residing in the country, 60,437 from the Democratic Republic of Congo and 260 of other nationalities. Those living in the settlements include 9,482 Burundi refugees, 162,256 that have been naturalised, 1,490 Somali refugees and 1,423 Somalis that have been naturalised while 22,376 Burundi refugees are residing in villages.

I recently had the privilege to visit a number of settlements and refugee camp in Nyarugusu, Kasulu district in Kigoma regions thanks to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Dar es Salaam who organised a press mission last week. I learnt what exactly it meant to have courage to be a refugee.

This statement doesn’t only include the courage to walk thousands of kilometres fleeing for your life after ethnic violence drove these people out of their country but also to stay for over 40 years in an ‘alien’ country, be enclosed in one area where you have to seek permission whenever you want to leave the premises.

Its also refers to being born out of your country, see yourself grow, get educated, marry and have children without having the chance to see where your parents came from, without seeing the other members of your blood line, that takes courage.

The government of Tanzania seeing this and for other security reasons very boldly gave the Burundi refugees a choice, for those who wanted to return to their country after peace had prevailed were voluntarily allowed to return and for those who chose to stay, they were naturalised, meaning that they were offered citizenship, 162, 256 of them chose the latter.

The Field Unit Ulyankulu Tabora Field Officer, Mr Belai Ghebre-egzabiher says that in the 24 years he has been working UNHCR, he had never come across such a unique gesture and that the government should be proud of itself for making such a humanitarian decision.

“This is the first time in the history of the UN for one country to naturalise people at this scale, it is not an easy undertaking. Naturalisation is done a lot of times but it rarely exceeds ten people, its also encouraging that the receiving districts that have been earmarked to receive these new Tanzanians are showing a very positive response,” he said.

For three days we visited the Ulyankulu old settlement, Mkindu village within the settlement, a secondary school in Urambo, Nyarugusu camp that houses DRC refugees and Mpanda district in Rukwa that has the Katumba camp and I particularly left there with huge memories of just how courageous refugees are.

Have you ever visited a place and after you leave, the memories stick to you superglue? Well, that happened to me when I first stepped into the premises of Katumba Secondary School in Mpanda.

Katumba was one of the three so-called "old settlements" inhabited by the 1972 Burundians. Similar notifications were simultaneously released in the two other settlements of Mishamo and Ulyankulu by senior Tanzanian immigration officials. The naturalized Burundians will now live among the general population.

Katumba camp has been shut down for a number of years now and the government in its relocation programme for the refugees is finalising its logistics to move the refugees to other parts of the country which means that the students currently at the school are the last bunch.
The Katumba Secondary School Headmaster, Mr Adrian Mwasalima informed that he has 650 students at the moment where 50 percent are new Tanzanians and that the major problem he faces is mixing the two cultures.

Mr Mwasalima claimed that the problem with the former refugee children was that they are not open and can be very secretive and at times unwilling to studying together with the ‘less serious’ Tanzanians.

“There are some issues we are seeing between the two particularly when hoisting the flag, the new Tanzanians are not respecting it as they claim that it isn’t theirs but through effective counseling, we hope to change this,” he said.

He said that involving the parents is changing this is proving to be fruitless largely because many of the parents tend to feel that they are being undermined. Katumba secondary school in spite of being in the wilderness of Mpanda district has been performing rather well in the number of passes where in 2004, it produced seven whooping Division Ones, nine Division Twos, 16 Division Threes, 38 Division Fours and only two fails.

Last year like many other schools in the country, it didn’t fair well but still managed to register one Division One, three Division Threes, 15 Division Fours and 15 fails. I have to admit that I was rather taken aback when I started interviewing the students about how they feel to be newly naturalised Tanzanians to learn that they can speak English with a lot of confidence and very reasonably fluent.

I learnt from both teachers and students that the issue of segregation amongst themselves is a little exaggerated and that their relations are rather good taking into consideration their circumstances and many don’t even regard each other as old or new Tanzania and how they speak such good English, well it is well enforced with a little environmental corporal punishment, lots of weeding the premises and a bit of digging, someone’s got to plough the fields if we are going to eat! Right?

Takes courage to be a refugee: Winner of the World Refugee Day Journalism Award

UNHCR: Treat refugee information with caution

THE United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC) has advised the media to counter check their information before publishing sensational stories lest they plunged the nation into xenophobia.

‘’There have been reports in some local media of suspected refugees being involved in poaching activities, these reports have become a concern to us. I urge journalists to investigate before putting pen to paper,’’ The UNHCR Country Representative, Mr Bajulaiye said.

Mr Bajulaiye was addressing reporters who attended a familiarisation workshop of the commission’s recent activities, on Wednesday in Dar es Salaam.

He, however, said refugees were not above the law and if found guilty of an offence, they should be prosecuted like all other nationals.

Mr Bajulaiye told the ‘Daily News’ that upon reading the articles on alleged poaching by refugees, the UN organ conducted its own investigations and established that the allegations were false.

"Owing to the seriousness of these allegations and the negative consequences that such reports may bring about, we have formally made our concerns known to relevant government ministries,’’ he said.

He urged for extra care particularly on stories related to refugees, saying reporters should not hesitate to seek guidance from the commission and other government authorities associated with refugees.

As part of its activities in the repatriation and naturalization of refugees, the UNHCR,which has been operating in the country for many years has, in 2011set aside 440,000 US Dollars for environmental projects in refugee impacted years.

"The projects are mostly centred in Tabora and Rukwa regions where most refugees stayed but we are rehabilitating the regions and happy to say we have set aside another 3m US Dollars for schools, health facilities and other social economic projects,’’ he said.

The UNHCR Senior Field Coordinator for local integration, Mr Andrew Mbogori added that 22m US Dollars would be spent for overall projects in the whole country.

Mr Mbogori said in the two regions that hosted refugees between 1972 and 1978, there were 218,000 of them and that through voluntary repatriation, 53,000 had already left.

From a Comprehensive Solution Strategy that had been taken up by the government being assisted by UNHRC, 165,000 individuals were naturalised and the process of full local integration of the newly naturalised Tanzanians at destinations across the country has already begun.

UN has managed to decrease the number of refugees in the country from 800,000 in 2000 to less than 100,000 today.

"As part of our milestones in the country, we have helped 165,000 people get citizenship and a further 20,000 newly born babies have been added to this figure,’’ he said.

The Ulyankulu settlement has been registered for relocation of 8,677 households and 48,617 people and the same process is underway in Katumba and Mishamo settlements.

Earlier this year, there were reports that the management of Katavi National Park had claimed that over seventy per cent of poaching activities were carried out by Burundian refugees who allegedly used modern military weapons to kill wild animals and made away with carcasses and national trophies.

In charge of security at Katavi National Park, Mr Davis Mushi said that some Burundian refugees at Mishamo and Katumba refugee camps in Mpanda district were actively trespassing into the national park, killing wild animals including huge herds of buffalo, zebras, impalas, elephants and waterbucks.

In May 2001, game wardens in the Malagarasi Game Reserve in Kigoma Region western Tanzania arrested 12 Burundian refugees who were reportedly on a mission to poach animals.

The Kigoma Regional Police Commander, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Boniface Mgongolwa had said the suspects were arrested late last week but were not armed though they had traps indicating that they were on a poaching mission.

In 2008, a report issued by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network revealed that the lack of meat in refugee nations in East Africa was causing a flourishing illegal trade in wild meat, threatening wildlife populations and creating a food security issue for rural communities.

The report ‘’’Night Time Spinach’: Conservation and livelihood implications of wild meat use in refugee situations in north western Tanzania,” used case studies from Kagera and Kigoma in Tanzania, the host to one of the largest concentrations of refugees in the world, and the largest in Africa.

Illegally-obtained wild meat was covertly traded and cooked after dark and referred to as ‘night time spinach’ inside many refugee camps.


UNFPA applauds Tanzania humanitarian workers for bravery

Dr. Julitta Onabanjo, the Country Representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), on Tuesday applauded humanitarian workers in Tanzania for their support during emergencies and disasters, a time when civilians are most vulnerable.
“Humanitarian workers offer first-line support at times of greatest need, when individuals and communities suffer hardships sometimes beyond our imagination or expectations, and most often beyond our control,” Dr Onabanjo said.
Dr Onabanjo made these remarks during her key note address at the start of a four-day orientation workshop on addressing the Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH), Gender and Population Concerns in Emergency and Refugee situations.
She said that more than half of the countries in African are in, or emerging from, some form of natural disaster, man-made crises or complex emergency.
Although natural disasters make up a significant proportion of emergencies, most man-made crises in sub-Saharan Africa are due to socio-political instability associated with human rights violations, poor governance, ethnic or tribal conflicts and generalized poverty.
A new UNHCR report on Global Trends launched to mark this year’s World Refugee Day, shows that many of the world’s poorest countries, are host to large refugee populations, both in absolute numbers but also in relation to the size of their economies.
Further, the 2010 Global Trends report highlights that 43.7 million persons worldwide are now displaced of which 15.4 million are refugees, 27.5 million are people displaced within their own country due to conflict and nearly 850,000 asylum-seekers, nearly one fifth of them in South Africa alone.
In situations of conflict and humanitarian emergencies accessibility to sexual and reproductive health services becomes a significant challenge.
“At the best of times, and in the best of situations, issues related to sexual and reproductive health and rights including HIV and AIDS and gender dynamics can be challenging. In times of crisis these challenges are escalated,” Dr. Onabanjo pointed out. 
She further elaborated that sub-Saharan Africa remains home to the highest rates of maternal deaths and disabilities, teenage pregnancies, HIV infection rates and gender inequities that result in various forms of gender and sexual based violence, and in times of crisis, while these issues remain and many times increases, the response in terms of access to quality health and psychosocial care particularly for mothers and children tend to get set aside as focus is concentrated on shelter, water and sanitation, food and infrastructure reconstruction.  
While these issues are extremely important the key message is that sexual and reproductive health, gender and population concerns must also be integrated into national efforts of disaster preparedness and emergency response. 
The intention of the four-day workshop is to sensitise key humanitarian experts who are at the frontline of Tanzania’s disaster preparedness and refugee situations to these issues and collectively discuss the best approaches to ensuring sexual and reproductive health, gender and population issues are part of the policy and programmatic responses of key national and non-state actors.  
Capacity and resource gaps and issues around implementation, coordination and partnerships will also be discussed.
Data shows that in the few emergency situations that have occurred in Tanzania, the risk of sexual violence, sexual transmitted illness including HIV transmission tends to increase during social instability.
Lack of family planning and other reproductive health services and information during crisis increases the risks of maternal, newborn and child illness and deaths and unintended pregnancies. 
Persistent socio-cultural practices which evolve in different manners in refugee settings continue to disadvantage and discriminate against young girls. And timely and accurate population data which is critical to support preparedness and response plans is a challenge to obtain and remains inadequately disaggregated.
As part of the early warning systems, comprehensive data collection on disaster prone areas will facilitate the targeting of specific needs of vulnerable groups in response and recovery plan.
UNFPA, as part of the UN system Delivering as One UN in Tanzania and in collaboration with other UN agencies working in the emergency and refugee fields, have placed a high priority and commitment to supporting Tanzania to address among others, the sexual and reproductive health, gender and population concerns under their new cooperation the 2011-2015 UN Development Assistant Plan to Tanzania (UNDAP).
The signing of the UNDAP is planned for this Friday, 24 June 2011 and will begin the new cooperation for all the UN agencies in Tanzania for the next four years.  Resources earmarked for emergency preparedness and refugees represent around 26 percent of the overall four-year budget of the UNDAP. 

The orientation workshop on addressing Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH), Gender and Population Concerns in Emergency and Refugee situations is being conducted by UNFPA Regional Office in South Africa, UNFPA Country Office, other UN agencies and partners.
It involves participants from the government, local and international NGOs, UN staff and other development partners working in the areas of health, SRH, social support/protection, data management, emergency preparedness and disaster management.

Another 'Daily News' journo scoops major award

A 'DAILY NEWS journalist, Mr Masembe Tambwe, has emerged the first prize winner of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee World Refugee Day journalism award for 2011.

Mr Tambwe was awarded a laptop and certificate in recognition for his outstanding work in journalism as related to refugee's protection and assistance.

The colourful event, held in Dar es Salaam on Monday, went hand in hand with the commemoration of the World Refugee Day annually marked on June 20.

This is the year's third major award scooped by a 'Daily News' staff writer, after another 'Daily News' journalist, Mr Orton Kiishweko, early this year won the Journalist of the year award offered by the Tanzania Media Council.

Mr Kiishweko preceded another 'Daily News' scribe Abdallah Msuya who scooped the Best National Overall worker of the Year Award presented by the Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (TUCTA)

''This is indeed a privilege and honour to have won the award and receive the recognition.

''I would like to thank UNHCR for the award but mostly for the press mission I was in May this week where we got first hand experience on what it means to be a refugee as well as being familarised with the UN organ's operations,'' Mr Tambwe said after the ceremony.

The United Nations Media Communication Manager, Ms Hoyce Temu who was in the panel of judges said that they received numerous and well written articles and that choosing the top three winning ones was difficult task.

The Head of the Law Department of the University of Dar es Salaam, Dr Khoti Kamanga said that it was pleasing to finally see journalists being interested in giving a voice to refugees and urged them to continue with the cause.

The UNHCR Country Representative, Mr Oluseyi Bajulaiye congratulated the winner of the award and encouraged the media fraternity to nurture interest in refugee issues as well as educate the public on the same.

The winning article published in mid April was entitled ''UNHCR: Treat refugee information with caution'' targeted the media and cautioned it to cross check with the proper authorities prior to publishing articles about refugees for fear of plunging the nation into xenophobia.

There have been numerous reports in past months that the management of Katavi National Park had claimed that over 70 per cent of poaching activities were carried out by Burundian refugees who allegedly used modern military weapons to kill wild animals and made away with the national trophies.

Meanwhile a newly naturalized Tanzanian, Ms Grace Samson, made a passionate plea to the government and the media to sensitize Tanzanians to give them due recognition.

''Like any Tanzanian we should be treated with dignity without discrimination, xenophobia; stigmatization, marginalization and that we are not second class citizens,'' she pleaded.

''We people who are here today must not forget that in principle no person under the sun is immune to become a refugee considering numerous natural calamities and man made disastrous events currently facing our world,'' she cautioned.

In 2007, the government whilst seeking solution to the refugee issue in the country voluntarily repatriated over 360,000 Burundians, 66,000 Congolese refugees and offered naturalisation to 162,000 former Burundian refugees.

The UN Resident Coordinator, Mr Alberic Kacou said that Tanzania needed to be applauded for its generosity of supporting and receiving people in their moment of extreme vulnerability.

Ms Kacou quoting the UN Secretary General, Mr Ban ki Moon, said that the burden of helping the world's forcibly displaced people was starkly uneven and that poor countries host vastly more displaced people than wealthier ones and this needed to change.

''While anti-refugee sentiment is heard loudest in industrialised countries, developing nations host 80 per cent of the world's refugees. This situation demands an equitable solution,'' he said.

He asked as the world celebrated the World Refugee Day, people everywhere should spare a thought for the millions of children, women and men who had been forced from their homes, who are at risk of their lives and who in some cases want nothing more than to return home or to start afresh.


Winner of the World Refugee Day Journalism Award

With wobbly feet and a near bucketful of sweat, I stood and posed for the cameras on what is surely the biggest day of my journalism career when I was announced the winner of this prestigous award.