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Rwanda: plans for visit by Tanzania camp leaders

Briefing notes

Rwanda: plans for visit by Tanzania camp leaders

11 October 2002

UNHCR is making preparations for an advance visit to Rwanda by Rwandan refugee leaders living in camps in western Tanzania ahead of a planned operation to promote the return of some 22,000 Rwandan refugees from Tanzania. The planned visit - a confidence-building measure - is part of a three-party agreement reached on September 30 between the governments of Rwanda, Tanzania and UNHCR. Under the terms of the signed agreement, UNHCR will encourage Rwandan refugees to return home and expand its ongoing repatriation programme to Rwanda to aid the voluntary return of Rwandan refugees by the end of the year.

Upon their return to the Tanzania camps, refugee leaders will be expected to speak to their refugee compatriots about the situation prevailing inside Rwanda. At the same time, former refugees, now back in Rwanda, will be invited to camps in western Tanzania to speak to refugees about the situation at home and their reintegration. Information campaigns and other confidence-building measures are expected to be completed by the end of this month to pave the way for the start of the expanded repatriation programme by mid-November. The operation is slated for completion by the end of the year.

Alongside the information campaigns, UNHCR will open up more registration centres in the camps to allow more refugees to sign up for return. Another meeting between the three parties - the governments of Rwanda, Tanzania and UNHCR - is expected to take place in the new year to define the next steps in the event that there are remaining groups of Rwandan refugees in Tanzania.

Many of the Rwandan refugees arrived in Tanzania in 1998 - the first group of Rwandan refugees to be admitted into Tanzania following the mass return of close to 500,000 in December 1996. More than 1,000 Rwandan refugees have arrived so far this year. At the same time, more than 3,000 Rwandan refugees have returned home this year from Tanzania. All together, camps in Tanzania host more than 500,000 refugees, mainly from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).