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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What you need to know about refugees in Tanzania

The United Republic of Tanzania's history as a country of asylum dates back more than 40 years, over which period it has hosted one of the largest refugee populations in Africa.
The Government of Tanzania has also been active in the search for solutions for refugees within its territory; for instance, it has played a key role in international efforts to bring peace and stability to Burundi and to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
In April 2010, the Government took the unprecedented decision to naturalize more than 162,200 Burundian refugees who had lived in so-called "Old Settlements" in the north-west of the country since 1972.

In a troubled region, Tanzania has remained peaceful and stable while most of its neighbours have suffered civil conflicts. The elections in Tanzania and Burundi in 2010, which have brought refugee issues under increasing scrutiny, could have an impact on UNHCR's work.

It is the Government's wish that voluntary repatriation and other solutions bring an end to the refugee situation in the country. Tanzania continues to enforce an encampment policy which requires all refugees to live in "designated areas." This leaves the refugees few opportunities to supplement their incomes and diets, and they remain dependent on humanitarian assistance.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has continued to promote and facilitate the voluntary repatriation of Burundian and Congolese refugees in north-western Tanzania.
However, the pace of repatriation remains slow because of fears of violence related to election and land issues in Burundi, and to insecure conditions in the eastern DRC. As a consequence, resettlement will continue to play an important role as a durable solution for this group.

Meanwhile, UNHCR aims to maintain high standards in the provision of food, nutrition, water and health care, while also implementing measures to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence.

The Government will continue to need UNHCR's help to complete the local integration of the newly-naturalized former Burundian refugees, and assist them to relocate to the areas in which they will live.

Despite their naturalization, the members of this group remain of concern to UNHCR as they will not be able to exercise all their rights as citizens until their local integration is finalized.
Another group of Burundian refugees of the 1972 group, who settled in villages in the Kigoma region, will be offered opportunities for durable solutions, including naturalization.
The registration of this group, comprising some 22,000 people, is underway, and individual preferences for repatriation to Burundi or naturalization and integration in Tanzania, are being recorded.

Other refugees, mainly ethnic Hutus, who arrived from Burundi in the mid-1990s, and Congolese, mainly ethnic Wabembe from southern Kivu, now live in the last two remaining camps in north-western Tanzania (Mtabila and Nyarugusu). The durable solutions available to these refugees are only voluntary repatriation or resettlement.

Tanzania continues to experience large-scale unlawful entry of irregular migrants. While most migrants are motivated by economic factors, some also leave their countries of origin for political reasons and the search for safety and security.

By early 2008, some 550 prisoners had been convicted of unlawful entry into Tanzania and some 1,300 illegal immigrants, mainly from the Horn of Africa, were detained pending deportation to their home countries. The majority of persons in mixed movements are intercepted and detained by the authorities, while in transit to southern Africa.

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