Last Tanzanian refugees fly home from Kenya

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Kris Janowski to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The last group of Tanzanian refugees who fled civil disturbances to Kenya early this year began repatriating by air this morning, with a UNHCR-chartered aircraft making two flights today from Dadaab camp to Pemba island. Two more flights will follow Wednesday from Dadaab, in north-eastern Kenya, to Zanzibar, returning the final 86 Tanzanian islanders still in the camp.

More than 2,000 people, mostly residents of Pemba sympathetic to the opposition Civic United Front (CUF), left that island and Zanzibar by boat earlier this year for the Kenyan coastal town of Shimoni after CUF supporters and Tanzanian security forces clashed on 27 January. Between 17 and 19 May, 667 refugees volunteered to repatriate with UNHCR by sea from Shimoni following assurances from the government of Tanzania that they would not be prosecuted as a group for their involvement in the demonstrations. Other refugees returned home on their own.

Those returning this week are part of the group of 505 who chose to move to Dadaab in May rather than repatriate. Until September, when UNHCR operated two direct flights to the islands from Dadaab, just 49 people had decided to repatriate since their transfer from the coast. With the four flights this week, that figure will climb to 224. No Tanzanian refugees will remain in Dadaab.

Of the remaining number who were moved to the camp, 194 people are known to have quit the site and travelled to Mogadishu, Somalia. UNHCR is not offering any material assistance to the refugees who voluntarily left Kenya.

UNHCR maintained a full-time presence on Pemba for four months after the May repatriation. Staff who continue to monitor the reintegration process say the situation is stable and that returnees have not been harassed or arrested. In October, the leader of the opposition CUF, observing that the government had "lived up to its promises," called on the last refugees to return home. UNHCR is working closely with the government, the CUF and returnee families. Each returnee receives a US$50 grant from UNHCR to help them with basic needs on arrival.