Transfer of Tanzanian refugees living in Kenya successfully completed

The last of the Tanzanian refugees who fled the islands of Pemba and Zanzibar earlier this year to escape civil disturbances have been returned home from the Dadaab Camp in eastern Kenya.

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PEMBA, Tanzania, Nov. 9 (UNHCR) - The last 88 Tanzanian refugees living in the Dadaab Camp in eastern Kenya were returned to their homes in Pemba and Zanzibar Islands this week, the U.N. refugee agency said Friday.

The refugees, who fled Pemba in Tanzania after a violent opposition demonstration in January, were returned home on four flights. The return of the 88 refugees brought to 235 the total number of people brought home from Dadaab by UNHCR-chartered or commercial aircraft since June.

More than 2,000 people sympathetic to the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) left Pemba and Zanzibar islands by boat for the Kenyan coastal town of Shimoni after CUF supporters and Tanzanian security forces clashed last January 27.

In May, 667 of the refugees volunteered to repatriate from Shimoni following assurances from the Tanzanian government that they would not be prosecuted for their involvement in the demonstrations. The rest were taken to the Dadaab Camp and since then at least 194 people left the site voluntarily and travelled to Mogadishu, Somalia.

Upon arriving on Pemba, the returning refugees were taken home to their villages on two hired minibuses, one heading north and the other going south from Chake-Chake, the main town and site of the island's airport.

Although the large majority of refugees originate from Pemba, some had asked to be flown to Zanzibar, where they used the opportunity to visit their families, look for employment, or simply shop for clothes before heading home. A bus at the Zanzibar airport took them into town.

Formalities upon arrival consisted of presenting the UNHCR documentation to a customs official and a cursory search of the returnees' belongings. The returnees received a $50 cash grant to help them settle back into their communities.

UNHCR maintained a full-time presence in Pemba between May and August. The agency' staff who continue the monitor the reintegration process say the situation on the island is stable and that the returnees have not been harassed or arrested.

One returnee, for example, went back to his home in Mkoani on the southern part of the island. He found his welding shop as he had left it, remarking that his colleague, an apprentice, had visibly kept it running "to the best of his capacity". He also noticed that his 200 clove trees had been harvested during his absence, and offered small bags of the spice to his visitors.