CLARIFICATION ON SOME MISLEADING RUMOURS BEING SPREAD REGARDING THE ON-GOING VOLUNTARY REPATRIATION EXERCISE OF BURUNDIAN REFUGEES FROM TANZANIA
For more than five decades, The United Republic of Tanzania has been receiving and hosting refugees from different countries. Tanzania remains committed in finding durable solutions for these refugees, which have included naturalizing more than 250,000, of whom 162,156 were Burundians who entered Tanzania in 1972. In the same vein, Tanzania has assisted repatriation of refugees to their countries of origin whenever peace, security and stability were restored. Tanzania has also been in the forefront in facilitating resettlement of refugees to third countries, including the United States (25,094), Canada (2,278) and Australia (1,969).
In fulfilling its international obligation of providing safe haven to refugees, Tanzania has been doing the following:
i. Receiving asylum seekers;
ii. Providing sanctuary - places to live and protection; and
iii. Finding durable solutions for refugees.
All these responsibilities are undertaken in line with the natinal laws and international instruments.
From April 2015, Tanzania started to receive an influx of refugees from Burundi due to political instability following the general elections. The influx led to the creation of two new refugee camps in Western Tanzania at Nduta and Mtendeli. As of 1 August 2018, the number of Burundian refugees hosted at Nduta, Mtendeli and Nyarugusu camps totaled 213,562.
2.0 PEACE, SECURITY AND STABILITY IN BURUNDI AND THE COMMENCEMENT OF VOLUNTARY REPATRIATION OF REFUGEES
Between May 2016 and July 2017, a substantial number of Burundian refugees started returning to their country of origin and many requested to be registered and assisted to voluntarily repatriate. When H.E. Dr. John Pombe Joseph Magufuli, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, and H.E. Pierre Nkurunzinza, President of the Republic of Burundi met in July 2017, already 6,000 Burundian refugees had registered for voluntary repatriation.
Following the delays in assisting the repatriation of the registered refugees, some of the refugees in Nduta camp rioted and, as a result, various properties, including vehicles and infrastructure, were destroyed.
Subsequent to many Burundian refugees starting to return to their country, and more than 12,000 to have registered for voluntary repatriation, the Government of Tanzania convened the first tripartite meeting (Tripartite Commission Meeting) involving Tanzania, Burundi and UNHCR, which took place in Dar es Salaam on 31 August 2017. The meeting agreed, among other things, to repatriate the 12,000 refugees by 31 December 2017. However, by the set date, a total of 13,102 refugees who had voluntarily registered were repatriated safely and in dignity.
Following the great successes of the outcomes of the first Tripartite Commission Meeting, the Government of Burundi convened the second Tripartite Commission Meeting in Bujumbura, Burundi on 28 March 2018. The meeting resolved to repatriate 72,000 voluntarily registered Burundian refugees by 31 December 2018.
The exercise of voluntary repatriation of refugees has continued to be conducted with due regard of safety, dignity and human rights. All the repatriated refugees are well received by the authorities in Burundi, in collaboration with UNHCR, IOM, WFP and other relevant stakeholders, and they are taken up to their places of domicile.
3.0 POSITIVE RESPONSE OF THE VOLUNTARY REPATRIATION EXERCISE
Up until 9 August 2018, a total of 42,463 Burundian refugees were already assisted to repatriate, while 30,401 refugees had been voluntarily registered, and were eagerly waiting to be assisted to repatriate.
So far, there are no records of any Burundian refugee returning to Tanzania after their repatriation. This, among others, bears testimony to the presence of peace, security and political stability in Burundi.
The involvement of relevant stakeholders is evidence that the exercise is being carried out transparently, and in compliance with international standards of human rights. All the required steps involved in voluntary repatriation are appropriately adhered to.
Furthermore, during the Bujumbura Tripartite Commission Meeting in March 2018, the Government of Burundi informed that they have protected and reserved all the properties that were left behind by the refugees, and that the same are given back to the owners upon their return. It is in this regard that, all refugees who have returned home have found and repossessed their properties, including farms and houses.
From 27 to 29 June 2018, the Ambassadors representing European countries in Tanzania visited Kigoma. The visit took them also to Nduta refugee camp, where they witnessed the voluntary repatriation exercise, and also had an opportunity to talk to refugees, and other stakeholders, regarding the exercise and they witnessed the urge of refugees to return to their home country.
Refugees who voluntarily repatriate are assisted to do so in busses and their belongings are transported in trucks. In addition, they are provided with three-months food ration upon arrival in Burundi.
On 18 May 2018, Burundians held a referendum for constitutional amendment. The exercise was conducted peacefully, and no group has contested the results. This is an indication of the strengthened national unity, and restoration of peace and stability in Burundi.
4.0 APPEAL OF THE GOVERNMENT OF TANZANIA TO THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
Through Tanzania Missions Abroad, particularly some of those in Western Europe, the Government of Tanzania has been informed of existence of some groups of people resident in those countries that are spreading preposterous rumors, that Tanzania is forcefully repatriating Burundian refugees. This is contrary to the truth, and we see this to be designed to undermine the successes of the on-going voluntary repatriation exercise.
The Government of Tanzania calls upon the international community to ignore the rumors, and instead support the on-going voluntary repatriation exercise, which is being conducted with due respect to human dignity. The Government urges the international community to continue providing the much-needed financial resources for the on-going voluntary repatriation exercise.
The Government of Tanzania calls on all the Burundian refugees to continue to register for voluntary repatriation so that they can go and participate in building their country, where peace and security have now returned.
Issued by: Government Communication Unit
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African
16th August, 2018