UNHCR and Tanzania outline next steps to address refugee situation

Nairobi – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is working with the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania to support the country in pursuing its tradition of granting asylum and hosting refugees while respecting the wish of those who would like to return home.

Tanzania currently hosts approximately 350,000 refugees and asylum seekers, the majority of them from Burundi. Tanzania remains the largest host of Burundian refugees in the region. Women and children make up 78 percent of the total refugee population. It has also granted naturalization to more than 162,000 Burundian refugees who fled in 1972.

Last week, UNHCR and the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, held a High-Level Dialogue in Dar es Salaam underlining key principles for the protection of asylum seekers and refugees as well as further joint actions to be taken. The meeting was headed by the Tanzanian Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. Mwigulu Lameck Nchemba, and by Volker Türk, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection.

In a joint statement following the Dialogue, UNHCR and the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania called for the continued protection of refugees and asylum-seekers while supporting host communities. They also agreed on the importance of re-doubling efforts to seek solutions, such as finalizing the naturalization process for the remaining 1972 Burundi refugees, assisting refugees who wish to voluntarily return to their countries of origin and advocating for resettlement to third countries.

As some refugees have expressed the wish to return to Burundi, UNHCR and the United Republic of Tanzania also emphasized the need to ensure the voluntary nature of such returns and that all safeguards for protection are met. A technical tripartite meeting to initiate discussions on returns is scheduled to take place at the end of August 2017.

“Just as everyone has a right to flee, everyone has a right to return. It’s however essential that it is the free choice of refugees to return and that they understand clearly the situation in the place they return to,” said Türk. He added that many refugees may not be willing or able to return to Burundi and must continue to be afforded the protection they need.

Looking ahead, UNHCR and the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania set out further steps to take, including a review of the country’s refugee policy to ensure that it is adapted to the current refugee situation and that its procedures allows for quick identification of those with protection needs. They also agreed on the need to address gaps and pursue opportunities to better support refugees and host communities, particularly through enhancing the implementation of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF).