Tanzania: End of repatriation for Burundians from Old Settlements

Briefing Notes, 30 October 2009

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 30 October 2009, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Today we reach an important milestone in ending one of the longest-running refugee sagas in the world with the return to their homeland of 400 Burundians who fled to Tanzania in 1972. They are scheduled to leave Katumba, one of the so-called Old Settlements in western Tanzania, this afternoon at the end of a year-and-a-half-long voluntary repatriation program.

They are to travel by rail from the same train station where they arrived 37 years ago when they fled the eruption of ethnic violence which claimed the lives of an estimated 200,000 Burundian civilians. Since March 2008, UNHCR has helped 53,500 refugees from the Old Settlements to return home. The voluntary repatriation of the 1972 Burundian refugees is part of a landmark programme launched with the Tanzanian government to end this protracted refugee situation.

Under the same programme, 162,000 of the 1972 Burundian refugees in these Settlements applied for Tanzanian citizenship. Since August, some 29,000 had been naturalised. The Tanzanian government aims to complete the process by the end of the year for the remaining 133,000 applicants.

Tanzania also hosts Burundian refugees who fled their country in 1993. These refugees were mainly hosted in refugee camps in Kigoma and Kagera provinces in the north-west, out of which all but one have now been closed. Burundian refugees also fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda at the same time.

With the gradual return of peace in Burundi, more than half a million Burundian refugees have returned home, including more than 430,000 from camps in Tanzania. That now leaves just 36,000 Burundian refugees in one remaining camp in Tanzania, Mtabila, as well as another 21,500 in the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda.

UNHCR is working closely with the government of Burundi and the governments of asylum countries to actively promote the return of the remaining Burundian refugees. These efforts are part of a comprehensive strategy and roadmap leading ultimately to the cessation of refugee status of Burundians.

Meanwhile in Burundi, UNHCR is helping returnees solve problems they face in reclaiming their land by providing returnees with temporary shelter and supporting the peaceful resolution of land disputes arising from their long absence. The government and its UN partners are also helping landless returnees settle in specially constructed villages, six of which have been opened in 2008 and 2009.




Second Dialogue on Protection Challenges, December 2008

An informal discussion among stakeholders about protracted refugee situations.

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

Tanzanian refugees return to Zanzibar

The UN refugee agency has successfully completed the voluntary repatriation of 38 Tanzanian refugees from Zanzibar who had been residing in the Somalia capital, Mogadishu, for more than a decade. The group, comprising 12 families, was flown on two special UNHCR-chartered flights from Mogadishu to Zanzibar on July 6, 2012. From there, seven families were accompanied back to their home villages on Pemba Island, while five families opted to remain and restart their lives on the main Zanzibar island of Unguja. The heads of households were young men when they left Zanzibar in January 2001, fleeing riots and violence following the October 2000 elections there. They were among 2,000 refugees who fled from the Tanzanian island of Pemba. The remainder of the Tanzanian refugee community in Mogadishu, about 70 people, will wait and see how the situation unfolds for those who went back before making a final decision on their return.

Tanzanian refugees return to Zanzibar

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

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

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