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Thursday, June 23, 2011

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.


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