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Tanzania: increase in Rwandan arrivals in Ngara

Briefing notes

Tanzania: increase in Rwandan arrivals in Ngara

21 July 2000

UNHCR in Tanzania has noted a worrying increase in the number of Rwandan refugees arriving in the Tanzanian district of Ngara. The number of refugees has now reached 969 since the beginning of July - compared to a previous monthly average figure of 380 for the first six months of this year - bringing the total to 3,240 this year. This is well over the 1,633 that were recorded for the whole of 1999. Arrivals in Ngara have shown a steady increase since April, with a previous peak of 946 in May.

Most of the refugees are reported to come from Rwanda's neighbouring Kibungo Prefecture. Many take two days to make the journey, crossing the Kagera River into Tanzania in small numbers. They cite a number of reasons for leaving, including an alleged increase in disappearances and reported arbitrary arrests and killings, especially of young men. An inter-agency mission from Tanzania to the Rwandan border on July 11 was told that bodies had been seen floating in the Kagera River, another possible reason for the increasing numbers of refugees. Local defense force members are reportedly gathered in the border region, which, according to refugees, makes departure difficult. The majority of refugees are women and young men.

The district of Ngara, which is situated along the border with Rwanda and Burundi, hosts a sizeable number of refugees from both Burundi (102,000) and Rwanda (22,000). Tanzania is currently one of the biggest host countries, with a refugee population of 480,000, including 352,000 Burundians, 104,000 Congolese (DRC) and 24,000 Rwandans.