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Kenya: Tanzanian refugees track government talks

Briefing notes

Kenya: Tanzanian refugees track government talks

24 April 2001

Refugees who fled to Kenya from the islands of Pemba and Zanzibar are closely following talks between the Tanzanian government and the opposition Civic United Front (CUF), hoping for an agreement that would ease tension on the islands and could prompt many of the refugees to go back. UNHCR is waiting for a formal agreement to start making preparations for the return.

In a meeting yesterday with UNHCR staff and Kenyan officials at the temporary site in Shimoni, refugees said that a joint declaration resulting from the discussions would be the signal they were waiting for in order to return home.

Calm has returned to Pemba and Zanzibar since clashes between opposition supporters and security forces last January drove 2,400 people into Kenya. Around 1,300 refugees remain in Shimoni. The rest have moved in with friends and relatives among local inhabitants.

Kenyan authorities have agreed to delay until Thursday the planned controversial transfer of the refugees to Dadaab camp in the north-east of the country. The operation was originally slated to start on 19 April, after Kenyan officials rejected establishing an alternative site closer to the coast. UNHCR has made arrangements for a transfer to Dadaab, including supplying the refugees with medical care and food during the 600-km journey, but has indicated that the agency will not transfer any refugees who do not volunteer to go. So far, none of the group has signed up for the transfer.