Sunday, June 28, 2009
Burundi are being forcibly repatriated from Tanzania
This report is based on interviews conducted over five days in Burundi with returned refugees and four days in Tanzania with refugees still residing in Mtabila camp. Interviews were conducted with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) implementing partners in Burundi and Tanzania – Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Lutheran World Federation and another that spoke on the condition of anonymity, as well as Human Rights Watch and anonymous international observers in Tanzania. Tanzanian authorities were consulted as well as officials from UNHCR in both Tanzania and Burundi. See also the attached notice in Swahili that was handed out to all refugees in Mtabila by UNHCR (unofficial translation follows).
The Mtabila refugee camp in western Tanzania is scheduled to close by 30 June 2009.1 The camp is home to some 37,000 Burundian refugees, many of whom fled ethnic violence and armed conflict in their country in 1993. According to UNHCR, since 2002 360,0002 Burundian refugees have been repatriated from Tanzania, however, those remaining in Mtabila camp have persistently refused return. Tanzanian authorities have employed coercion and intimidation to force the remaining refugees out. In the last six months, they have closed the refugees’ markets and businesses, restricted crop cultivation, burned houses, arrested camp leaders and threatened the use of force by the army. UNHCR has yet to publicly condemn the actions of the Tanzanian government, and moreover, rights groups contend the agency has stood by while refugees were forced to return based on threats of force while uninformed of their rights.FINAL_Mtabila_report.pdf