High Commissioner wraps up visit to Great Lakes region, welcomes European Commission contribution

Briefing Notes, 3 March 2006

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 3 March 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

High Commissioner António Guterres is wrapping up his week-long mission to the Great Lakes region today in Tanzania after talks with senior government officials.

During a field visit to Kibondo district in north-western Tanzania yesterday (Thursday), Mr Guterres saw for himself the squalid living conditions new arrivals from Burundi are experiencing in overcrowded transit centres. Over the last few weeks, a growing number of Burundians have been crossing the border to seek refuge in Tanzania citing lack of food and growing insecurity as the reasons for their flight. Earlier this week, the High Commissioner, as part of his joint mission with the heads the World Food Programme and UNICEF to the Great Lakes region, was in Rwanda and Burundi.

Mr. Guterres will hold a briefing at the Palais des Nations, Salle III, on Monday, March 6, at 1600 hours about his mission to this region, which requires a lot more international attention. And in that connection, the European Commission's Humanitarian aid office, ECHO, yesterday announced a most welcome 1.5 million euro contribution to UNHCR for our work with refugees in Burundi. Some 30,000 Congolese refugees and 20,000 Rwandan asylum seekers are currently in Burundi.

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Finding a Home on Ancestral Land

Somali Bantu refugees gaining citizenship in Tanzania

The Nansen Refugee Award 2005

Burundian humanitarian worker Maggy Barankitse received the 2005 Nansen Refugee Award for her tireless work on behalf of children affected by war, poverty and disease. The Nansen medal was presented at a grand ceremony in Brussels by H.R.H. Princess Mathilde of Belgium and UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Wendy Chamberlin.

Accepting the award, Barankitse said her work was inspired by one single goal: peace. "Accept your fellow man, sit down together, make this world a world of brothers and sisters," she said. "Nothing resists love, that's the message that I want to spread."

Sponsored by UNHCR corporate partner Microsoft, the ceremony and reception at Concert Noble was also attended by Belgium's Minister for Development Co-operation Armand De Decker, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel, renowned Burundian singer Khadja Nin, Congolese refugee and comedian Pie Tshibanda, and French singer and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Julien Clerc. Among others.

The Nansen Refugee Award 2005

A fresh start; Burundian former refugees begin a new chapter in their lives

Since the end of October more than 26,000 Burundian former refugees have been assisted by UNHCR and its partners to return home from the Mtabila camp in northwest Tanzania. The operation is organized with the Government of Tanzania to help some 35,500 Burundian former refugees go back to Burundi by the end of 2012, when the Mtabila camp officially closes.

Refugee status for most Burundians in Tanzania formally ended in August following individual interviews to assess remaining protection needs. A total of 2,715 people will continue to be hosted as refugees in Tanzania, while the rest, the last of a population of refugees who left Burundi some 20 years ago, must return home. This is not an easy move after having spent most of your life -- and sometimes all of it -- in exile.

While awaiting their turn to join one of the daily convoys to bring them home, Burundian former refugees are preparing themselves for a fresh start…

A fresh start; Burundian former refugees begin a new chapter in their lives

Photo Gallery: The Challenge of Forced Displacement in Africa

Africa is the continent most affected by the tragedy of forced displacement. While millions of refugees were able to return to Angola, Burundi, Liberia, Rwanda and South Sudan over the last 15 years, the numbers of internally displaced people continued to grow. At the beginning of 2009, in addition to some 2.3 million refugees, an estimated 11.6 million people were internally displaced by conflict in Africa.

To address forced displacement on the continent, the African Union is organizing a special summit on refugees, returnees and internally displaced people from October 19-23 in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. Heads of state and government will look at the challenges and at ways to find solutions to forced displacement. They are also expected to adopt a Convention for the protection and assistance of internally displaced people (IDP) in Africa, which would be the first legally binding instrument on internal displacement with a continental scope. This photo gallery looks at some of the forcibly displaced around Africa, many of whom are helped by UNHCR.

Photo Gallery: The Challenge of Forced Displacement in Africa

Somalia: Zanzibar ReturnPlay video

Somalia: Zanzibar Return

It took more than a decade, but finally a group of families return to Zanzibar in Tanzania after living in exile in Mogadishu, Somalia.
Tanzania: Road to CitizenshipPlay video

Tanzania: Road to Citizenship

In 2007, UNHCR and the government of Tanzania gave him a choice: return home or become Tanzanian. It was an easy decision for Michael Sheltieri Namoya.
Tanzania: Bantu HomecomingPlay video

Tanzania: Bantu Homecoming

For more than four centuries, thousands of ethnic Bantus have lived in Somalia. Now they are making their way to Tanzania, land of their ancestors.