From 27 to 29 July, a delegation of Ambassadors to Burundi and Tanzania of the European Union, Stefan de Loecker and Tim Clarke, visited the refugee operations with UNHCR representatives.
The objective was to assess the situation of the remaining 100,000 individuals who have been living in camps in Kigoma region since 1993 and of the more than 162,000 former Burundian refugees who were granted citizenship by the Tanzanian government and are living in three settlements in Rukwa and Tabora regions since 1972.
In May, the Tripartite Commission between the governments of Tanzania and Burundi, together with UNHCR agreed to close Mtabila camp for Burundian refugees by 31 December 2011. The EU will support UNHCR and its partners to facilitate the voluntary repatriation and the gradual integration of these refugees in their country of origin.
As a result of the mission the EU and UNHCR will work at in particular how to provide suitable conditions in Burundi to promote the repatriation process. As regards the Nyarugusu camp, the delegation noted the concerns expressed by the Congolese refugees about the security conditions in their country and notably the challenges faced by the forthcoming elections.
Mission members were encouraged by recent discussions initiated by the Government of Tanzania regarding the continuation of facilitation of voluntary repatriation to the DRC.
On their visit to the Ulyankulu settlement in Tabora region, the delegation recognized the unprecedented decision of the Tanzanian government to naturalize those refugees who arrived in Tanzania in 1972 and commended this gesture of generosity as exemplary in finding durable solutions for protracted refugee situations.
The naturalized refugees are expected to relocate into 16 selected regions of Tanzania. This exercise will be led by the Prime Minister’s Office – Regional Administration and Local Government (PMO-RALG) with the support of UNHCR and other UN agencies.
While hearing the concerns of the community and ensuring they would have access to appropriate health and education facilities, the EU Ambassador to Tanzania, Tim Clarke, said “Tanzania is at a crossroads in how to deal with refugees, many of whom have been hosted by the Government for four decades. All parties want to make the naturalisation and the relocation process a real success – a win-win for all, but no one should underestimate the challenges ahead.”
“We are waiting for the Government decision on when to start the relocation. UNHCR gave assurances that will closely follow and monitor your integration into the country with the support of our partners,” assured the UNHCR Representative to Tanzania, Oluseyi Bajulaiye, to the newly naturalized Tanzanians.
“Thanks to our donors, we will enhance the social services in the receiving regions to make sure that the local communities will also benefit from your presence”, he added.
Other members of the delegation were the EU Head of the Political Section to Tanzania, Tom Vens, the ECHO team in Burundi, Isabelle D’Haudt and Alexis Mangona, the UNHCR Deputy Representative to Burundi, Barry Abdoulaye, the UNHCR Head of Makamba office in Burundi, Wella Kouyou, and the UNHCR Associate External Relations Officer to Tanzania, Jerome Seregni.
The Government of Tanzania was represented by Deusdedit Masusu, from the Ministry of Home Affairs and Swahiba Mndeme, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.