UNHCR promotes return of Rwandan refugees in Tanzania
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, October 11 (UNHCR) - Under a newly inked tripartite agreement, the UN refugee agency has started an information campaign to encourage some 22,000 Rwandan refugees in Tanzania to return home by the end of the year.
The three-party agreement, signed between UNHCR and the governments of Tanzania and Rwanda on September 30, stipulates that the refugee agency will promote the repatriation of Rwandan refugees in Tanzania and expand its ongoing return programme to Rwanda.
As a first step, UNHCR is hoping to build confidence among the Rwandan refugees by organising "go-and-see" visits by refugee leaders to their homeland. These leaders will survey prevailing conditions in Rwanda, and report their findings to fellow refugees upon their return to the camps in western Tanzania.
In addition, Rwandans who had earlier returned home from the camps will be invited back to Tanzania to speak to the refugees about the situation at home and about their reintegration. These measures will be part of an information campaign to be completed by the end of October.
The UN refugee agency is scheduled to start expanding its repatriation programme by mid-November. This includes opening more registration centres to allow more Rwandan refugees to sign up for return. The operation is slated for completion by year's end.
UNHCR is expected to meet the governments of Tanzania and Rwanda again in early 2003 to define further steps in the event that not all the Rwandan refugees choose to go home.
So far this year, more than 1,000 Rwandans have arrived in Tanzania, while over 3,000 have returned home from Tanzania. In December 1996, nearly 500,000 Rwandan refugees in western Tanzania's camps were repatriated.
In all, Tanzania now hosts more than 500,000 refugees in camps, most of whom are from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.