Source: Daily News
TANZANIA and Burundi have decided to step up voluntary repatriation of refugees at Mtabila camp in Kigoma Region and close it down by the end of the year.
The decision was reached at the tripatite commission that met in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday, led by the Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Shamsi Vuai Nahodha and Burundi Minister of National Solidarity, Human Rights and Gender, Ms Immaculee Nahayo.
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The commission deliberated on the plight of Burundi refugees in the country.
The UN refugees agency said in a statement at the end of the meeting that as of May 20, the number of Burundian refugees in the country stood at 67,392 including 37,152 in Mtabila.
The rest are 1,144 in Nyarugusu camp also in Kigoma Region and others in Old Settlements at Katumba in Rukwa Region and Ulyankulu in Tabora Region.
UNHCR urged the international donor community to acknowledge the generous and unprecedented act of Tanzania to grant citizenship to about 160,000 Burundian refugees who had been living in the country for over 40 years.
The Un agency called for support in the country’s efforts to integrate them locally.
Mr Nahodha appealed to the authorities in Burundi to encourage refugees, particularly those at Mtabila to return home.
»These have defied calls to return home and have become insensitive to goodwill accorded to them, » Mr Nahodha said.
Mr Nahodha said the government was working out a plan for closure of the Mtabila Camp.
He said that he was assured that in the final analysis, when the plan was fully implemented the government if need be, would apply the cessation clauses on the Mtabila refugees.
The Home Affairs Minister said that the government wanted mass repatriation of Mtabila refugees to commence by September 2011, after conclusion of interviews and mass information campaigns.
He said it had been two years since they last met in Bujumbura, but voluntary return of refugees from Mtabila camp had remained marginal saying in 2010, only 1,012 refugees returned home voluntary out of 37,000.
In 2005 when President Jakaya Kikwete took office, he pledged to find the lasting solution to the refugees problem in the country within the framework of the International Law.
Ms Nahayo acknowledged the hospitality accorded to the refugees by the government saying her government was very grateful.
She praised the government for its courageous stand to naturalise and award citizenship certificates to 162,000 Burundian refugees who wanted to remain in the country.
»We agree that the repatriation of the remaining refugees in Mtabila Camp has been slow, especially now when security has been restored in the country. The challenge is to find the solution to this, » she said.
The UNHCR Country Representative, Mr Olusei Bajulaiye said the major objective of the meeting was to discuss and strategize on final solutions of the Burundi refugees in the country.
Mr Bajulaiye said he hoped the recommendations derived from the meeting would lead to closure of the chapter in the Burundi refugee situation in the country.
»The UNHCR strongly shares the Tanzanian government’s concerns on the slow pace of the return of Burundi refugees and agrees that the repatriation process needs renewed momentum, » he urged.