UNHCR condemns killing of Burundian refugees
In meetings with high level officials in Burundi and Tanzania, UNHCR has condemned the killing of 122 Burundian refugees last Friday after they were forcibly returned from Tanzania and has today received assurances that this would not happen again.
"I was deeply distressed by these killings," said UNHCR High Commissioner Sadako Ogata. "I am pleased that the governments involved have assured me that steps will be taken to prevent such a thing happening again and that the culprits will be severely dealt with. I repeat my call for all governments in the region to act in a humanitarian manner to the hundreds of thousands of people who have been displaced by conflicts there."
During a meeting with the Burundian Foreign Minister in Bujumbura today, UNHCR called on the Burundian government to take urgent steps to ensure that the military did not harm returning refugees. The Minister, Luc Rukingama, said his government also deplored the incident and that a message had been sent to the United Nations in New York to that effect. He said his government would strive to ensure that it was not repeated and suggested a number of measures to improve the situation. The Burundian government had earlier admitted that its forces were responsible for the killings and said seven soldiers had been arrested.
Meanwhile the agency's International Protection Division Director, Dennis McNamara, has held talks with high level Tanzanian officials, expressing concern over both the Burundi killings and the fate of thousands of Rwandan refugees who remain in Tanzania after the recent mass repatriation.
Tanzanian ministers expressed regret over the expulsion of the Burundian refugees. Mr McNamara was told that the return was not authorised by the government, whose policy was not to return refugees to Burundi at this stage. He was assured that "very stern action" would be taken against those responsible and that nothing of the kind would be allowed to happen again. UNHCR has stated that it is not safe for Burundian refugees to return home at the moment. It will continue to follow the situation in the region closely.