Tanzania camp to close as Burundian refugees return home
KIBONDO, Tanzania, April 5 (UNHCR) - Some 5,500 Burundian refugees in Tanzania will be relocated to another camp towards the end of this month as part of plans to consolidate camps amid the ongoing Burundi repatriation operation.
The Tanzanian government is set to close Karago camp, one of nine camps for Burundian refugees in north-western Tanzania, in the next few weeks. Karago's refugees will be moved to the neighbouring Mtendeli camp, where they will receive the same assistance.
A tripartite agreement between the United Republic of Tanzania, Burundi and UNHCR states that all Tanzanian camps with a refugee population of under 10,000 will be closed. This is an attempt to consolidate camps that empty out with the departure of Burundian refugees for home.
More than 158,000 Burundian refugees have repatriated since UNHCR started its voluntary return programme from Tanzania in March 2002. The refugee agency plans to help 85,000 more return this year, but the pace of returns has slowed, numbering 7,800 in the first three months of the year, compared to a high of more than 11,000 a month last summer.
"Concerns among the refugees over the availability of basic services in their home country and the peace process partially explain the drop in repatriation numbers," UNHCR spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday.
Funding is also a key constraint for the operation. Of the US$62.3 million needed for the repatriation programme this year, donors have so far provided only some $8.5 million, or 14 percent.
"The funding situation for the Burundi repatriation is desperate," explained Ursula Aboubacar, UNHCR's Head of Desk for Africa's Great Lakes region. "The lack of funds may further hamper smooth reintegration for refugees who have gone home. And without significant additional donations, we may not be able to accommodate an eventual increase in return movements before elections this summer."
There are more than 240,000 Burundian refugees in Tanzania's camps, with another 200,000 living in settlements and an unknown number in cities and villages. Tanzania is also home to more than 150,000 Congolese refugees and almost 3,000 Somali refugees.