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Tanzania: UNHCR concern on forced return of Burundians

Briefing notes

Tanzania: UNHCR concern on forced return of Burundians

1 February 2005

UNHCR has written to the government of Tanzania to express concern about the forced return of nine Burundian asylum seekers. UNHCR staff had interviewed the nine upon their arrival in Tanzania in late December and found that the two families - one of six people, the other of three - both had genuine reasons to fear persecution if they went back to Burundi. Despite assurances made to UNHCR that the nine would be granted refugee status in Tanzania, the Tanzanian authorities forcibly returned the two families to Burundi on 23rd January. UNHCR was not informed of the refoulement and was therefore unable to find alternative solutions for the asylum seekers.

Tanzania has been extremely generous towards refugees for many years. More than 400,000 refugees, most of them from neighbouring Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are currently staying in Tanzanian camps, and thousands more are living in settlements along the western border. Unfortunately, there has been a hardening in attitude towards refugees in recent months among the authorities. Refugees have been ordered to stay inside camps and forbidden to engage in any form of commercial activity.

While remaining grateful to Tanzania for their long standing commitment to refugees, UNHCR appeals to the authorities to ensure that all asylum seekers continue to be treated fairly in accordance with international law. UNHCR also requests that it be part of any screening process of asylum seekers in Tanzania.