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UNHCR reaffirms support for integration of 1972 Burundians in Tanzania

News Stories, 29 August 2011

© UNHCR/M.Brook
Deputy High Commissioner T. Alexander Aleinikoff is greeted by students during his visit to Tanzania.

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, August 29 (UNHCR) A top UNHCR official has reaffirmed the agency's commitment to support Tanzania's integration of tens of thousands of former Burundian refugees who fled their homeland in 1972.

UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees T. Alexander Aleinikoff made the pledge during a visit on Saturday to Ulyankulu, one of three settlements where the so-called 1972 Burundian refugees have been living for decades. The Tanzanian government last year granted citizenship to more than 162,000 of them, but it plans to close the settlements and integrate the Burundians in other regions of the country.

Aleinikoff praised Tanzania for its "unprecedented and tremendously generous policy." He said that "finding durable solutions for these types of protracted situations is never easy," while adding that "UNHCR and the entire international community are committed to supporting the integration of the newly naturalized Tanzanians."

The Deputy High Commissioner discussed the future with several newly naturalized residents during his visit to Ulyankulu in western Tanzania, including Kisomera Zebedayo Kanindo and his family.

Kanindo said that when he first heard about the government decision to give the 1972 Burundian refugees the option of returning home some 54,000 decided to repatriate or becoming naturalized citizens, he ran home to tell his wife and six children.

The farmer is now waiting to move to another region of Tanzania under the government's strategy to locally integrate its newest citizens and close the chapter on one of Africa's most protracted refugee situations.

Kanindo knows that he faces many challenges in starting a new life. "I am worried about access to schooling for my children and about where I'm going to live, but mostly I worry about what I can grow and when I will move," he told Aleinikoff.

But he was also proud and happy. "We are good and hard-working people and we are proud to be Tanzanians," he stressed.

Aleinikoff assured those he met at Ulyankulu that UNHCR would help to ease their transition. "Being uprooted is always difficult and nobody understands this better than refugees," he noted.

As part of the relocation plan, UNHCR will provide financial support to the new citizens and will work with the government and UN development partners to ensure that they can send their children to school, access local services and receive formal certificates of citizenship.

During his four-day visit to Tanzania, the Deputy High Commissioner also visited the Mtabila camp for Burundian refugees in Kigoma region. The government plans to close the camp at the end of the year. The residents fled their country in the 1990s.

By Jerome Seregni in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania




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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…

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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

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He used to fix broken bicycles in Burundi, but as political troubles and killings mounted Nestor Kamza decided to flee. In search of safety he and his family walked non-stop for 24-hours until they reached Tanzania. His family is among more than 100,000 people who have fled from political violence in Burundi and arrived in the Nyarugusu camp which has almost tripled in size. To alleviate overcrowding in the camp, UNHCR and its partners have planned to open three new camps and have started moving tens of thousands of Burundian refugees to a new, less congested, home
Tanzania: Setting Sail to SafetyPlay video

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More than 60,000 Burundian refugees have arrived in Tanzania since the beginning of May. On the shores of Lake Tanganyika, hundreds board a ferry to Kigoma, Tanzania, before continuing to Nyaragusu camp.
Rwanda: Flight from BurundiPlay video

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