EU, UNHCR visit refugees in western Tanzania (18/08/2011)

A European Union delegation comprising Ambassadors Stefan de Loecker (Burundi) and Tim Clarke (Tanzania) recently inspected refugee operations in Tanzania and Burundi 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 have been living in three settlements in Rukwa and Tabora regions since 1972.

The delegation was accompanied by UN refugee agency (UNHCR) officials.

In May, a tripartite commission between the governments of Tanzania and Burundi, together with UNHCR, agreed to close Mtabila camp for Burundian refugees by December 31, 2011.

The EU will support UNHCR and its partners to facilitate the voluntary repatriation and the gradual integration of the refugees in their country of origin. As a result of the mission the EU and UNHCR will work at how to provide suitable conditions in Burundi to promote the repatriation process.

With regard to Nyarugusu camp, the delegation noted the concerns expressed by the Congolese refugees about the security conditions in their country, and especially the challenges faced by the forthcoming elections. The 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 Ulyankulu settlement in Tabora region, the delegation recognized the unprecedented decision of the Tanzanian government to naturalize those refugees who arrived in the country in 1972 and commended the gesture of generosity as exemplary in finding durable solutions for protracted refugee situations.

The naturalized refugees are expected to relocate to 16 selected regions of Tanzania.

The exercise will be led by the Prime Minister’s Office with the support of UNHCR and other UN agencies.

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,” said UNHCR Representative to Tanzania Oluseyi Bajulaiye to the newly naturalized Tanzanians.

The EU Ambassadors to Burundi and Tanzania
The EU Ambassadors to Burundi and Tanzania, and the UNHCR Representative to Tanzania shaking hands in the EU funded health centre in Nyarugusu camp for Congolese refugees. Photo: Jerome Seregni of UNHCR Tanzania