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Tanzania to Interview Burundian Refugees in 2025 to Determine Validity of Stay

Refugees will be interviewed individually, and those proven to have the right to continue receiving refugee protection will remain in the camp

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The Tanzanian government has announced plans to interview Burundian refugees residing in various camps to assess their reasons for staying after unsuccessful voluntary repatriation efforts. 

This announcement was made on June 6, 2024, in Kigoma during the signing of a repatriation agreement between Tanzania and Burundi. The agreement was signed by Tanzania’s Minister of Home Affairs, Hamad Masauni, and Burundi’s Permanent Executive Secretary at the Ministry of the Interior, Community Development, and Public Security, Theophile Ndarufatiye.

This decision comes months after the 24th meeting of the Tripartite Commission for the Voluntary Repatriation of Burundian Refugees in Tanzania, held on November 30, 2023, in Dar es Salaam. 

In the joint communique between Tanzania, UNHCR, and Burundi, the three parties agreed that Rwanda is safe and peaceful and decided to scale up voluntary reparation; set a force to promote the return process, and put a mechanism of reparation of up to 2000 refugees per week.

Speaking on Thursday, Mr Masauni noted that the expert report has highlighted that some refugees are reluctant to return to Burundi

“Due to the slow progress in the repatriation exercise of refugees as planned and agreed upon during the 24th tripartite meeting held on November 24, 2023, we have deemed it appropriate to undertake an important exercise early in 2025 to interview our Burundian refugee brothers and sisters on why they are hesitant to return home,” said Masauni.

He added: “To assess the reasons they provide to determine if they qualify to continue being refugees, after which we will make appropriate decisions for the country.”

Tanzania hosts a total of 158,902 Burundian refugees across several camps, including Nyarugusu, Nduta, Ulyankulu, Katumba, and Mishamo in Kigoma. From September 2017 to November 2023, Tanzania and Burundi facilitated the voluntary repatriation of 164,631 Burundian refugees from Tanzania.

Tanzania emphasised that the expected exercise will follow all national, regional, and international laws.

“These efforts should not be interpreted as disregard for our Burundian brothers and sisters. On the contrary, we love them very much, which is why we encourage them to return home,” said Masauni.

“If they see that Tanzania has opportunities for them, they should use the existing procedures through the good neighborly relations between our two countries or through the opportunities available in the East African Community,” he added.

Masauni emphasised that despite agreements reached between Tanzania and Burundi, they will continue cooperating with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). He also emphasized that the country doesn’t see the need of extending the period of promotion of the return process after the end date of December 31,2024.

The Burundi government appears to be committed to ensuring the return of its refugees back home, part of the reason is to showcase the progress of its national building progress and stability.

On the other hand, with reduced resources from donors, Tanzania wants to reduce the burden of supporting refugees. For example, in August 2023, Tanzania appealed to development stakeholders for support, highlighting that it had to use its national budget, which is insufficient for providing essential services to refugees. The situation worsened with the influx of refugees from the Congo crisis.

Declining donor funding has severely impacted refugee camps in Tanzania. In May 2023, the World Food Program (WFP) announced cuts in food rations due to limited resources.

Subsequently, in September 2023, WFP released a report urging important stakeholders to “strongly” advocate with donors on the need for resources to support food and nutrition security of the refugees and asylum seekers at Nyarugusu na Nduta refugee camps as food security in the camps continue to worsen.

While the actual date for the interview has not been released, the Director of the Refugee Department from the Tanzania Ministry of Home Affairs, Sudi Mwakibasi, explained that the procedure for interviewing the refugees will adhere to the laws and regulations governing refugees.

And expounded that each refugee will be interviewed individually, and those proven to have the right to continue receiving refugee protection will remain in the camp. Those found not to have that right will lose their refugee status and will be given a letter to leave the country.

On its end, Burundi has committed to providing a safe and peaceful environment for the returning citizens.

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