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Tanzania: Guterres visits to launch programme to end protracted situation

Briefing notes

Tanzania: Guterres visits to launch programme to end protracted situation

7 March 2008

Today, Friday, High Commissioner António Guterres is starting a four-day mission to Tanzania during which he will launch a two-year programme to end one of the world's most protracted refugee situations - the exile of some 218,000 Burundians who fled their country in 1972. This will be one of our most important programmes on the African continent this year.

After 35 years, the breakthrough came in late 2007 when the government of Tanzania indicated its intention to close the so-called 'Old Settlements' hosting Burundian refugees from 1972. They have been living in three designated settlements in western Tanzania - Ulyankulu, Katumba and Mishamo.

The governments of Tanzania and Burundi expressed their wish to find lasting solutions for these refugees and worked with UNHCR on a strategy to bring the situation to a close. Some refugees have chosen to return home while others who wish to stay will be registered for possible naturalisation.

On Sunday, Mr Guterres will launch the first repatriation movement of the 1972 Burundians from Katumba settlement in Rukwa district. The first group of 250 returnees will travel by train to Kigoma, a town and lake port in western Tanzania, on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika and close to the border with Burundi. In Kigoma refugees will board UNHCR trucks to return home. Some 20 percent of the 1972 Burundian refugees - or 46,000 of the 218,000 refugees living in the "Old settlements" - expressed their wish to return to Burundi.

For those who have chosen to remain in Tanzania, the High Commissioner - together with Tanzanian authorities - will inaugurate on Saturday, 8 March, a registration exercise in Ulyankulu settlement for possible naturalization in Tanzania. An estimated 76,000 refugees who are over 18 years of age are expected to apply for Tanzanian citizenship.

In February, we appealed for $34 million to realize comprehensive solutions for the 218,000 "1972 Burundians."

In addition to 218,000 Burundian refugees from 1972, Tanzania hosts 113,000 Burundian refugees and 96,000 refugees from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo.