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High Commissioner mission to Uganda and Tanzania

Briefing notes

High Commissioner mission to Uganda and Tanzania

29 February 2008

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres on Monday begins an eight-day mission to Uganda and Tanzania to review the implementation of our programmes for refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the two countries.

During the Tanzanian leg of the trip, the High Commissioner will inaugurate a two-year programme to end one of the world's oldest protracted refugee situations - the exile of some 218,000 Burundians who fled their country in 1972. It will be one of our most important programmes on the African continent this year.

After 35 years, the breakthrough came in 2007 when the government of Tanzania indicated its intention to close the so-called 'Old Settlements' hosting Burundian refugees from 1972. The governments of Tanzania and Burundi expressed their wish to find lasting solutions for these refugees and worked with UNHCR on a strategy to bring the situation to a close.

The High Commissioner will launch the first repatriation by train of the "1972 Burundians" from Katumba settlement in Rukwa district on 9 March. Some 20 percent of the so-called 1972 Burundian refugees - or 46,000 of the 218,000 refugees living in Ulyankulu, Katumba and Mishamo settlements - expressed their wish to return to Burundi. Others have chosen to remain in Tanzania. The refugees who choose to stay will be able register for possible naturalisation in Tanzania. An estimated 76,000 refugees who are over 18 years of age are expected to apply for Tanzanian citizenship.

In addition to 218,000 Burundian refugees from 1972, Tanzania hosts 113,000 Burundian refugees and 96,000 refugees from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In Uganda, the first leg of the mission, Guterres will visit Mulanda transit centre hosting some 1,600 of the nearly 12,000 Kenyans who fled the post-electoral violence in their country. He will then proceed to see IDPs who have returned to their homes in the Pader district of northern Uganda. More than 950,000 Ugandan IDPs have returned or preparing to return to their homes since the movements started in 2006.

Guterres is also scheduled to visit Arua, where he will witness the repatriation of south Sudanese refugees. Since the start of UNHCR-run voluntary repatriations in May 2006, almost 35,000 Sudanese have returned home from Uganda.

During the visit to Uganda, the High Commissioner will be joined by the Luxembourg Minister for Development, Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs, Mr. Jean-Louis Schiltz. Luxembourg is by far UNHCR's top donor per capita, contributing $25 per inhabitant in 2006 and 2007.