Tanzania : Burundian authorities want to repatriate refugees at all costs

Tanzania : Burundian authorities want to repatriate refugees at all costs

Burundi is struggling to convince its refugees on the Tanzanian soil to return. This Tuesday, yet another delegation went there with the watchword : announcing the repatriation before the worst. Interested parties are reluctant. INFO SOS Médias Burundi

The Nyarugusu camp was not chosen at random by the multicolored Burundian delegation. It is not receptive to the incessant calls from the Burundian government for a “voluntary” return of more than 126,000 Burundian refugees settled in Tanzania, of whom more than 50,000 are in the Nyarugusu camp.

On Tuesday, the Burundian delegation was made up of a dozen members including returnees from Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda who “should be used to convince their former peers”.

The delegation was led by the permanent secretary at the Ministry of the Interior, Calinie Mbarushimana who did not mince words.

“Come to your senses and go home where you will be welcomed with open arms by the President of the Republic. The reasons for your fleeing are no longer relevant, the 2015 crisis is over, peace and security have returned and the country is stable under the leadership of President Ndayishimiye. Go back with these drums to beat them at home”, she said in front of refugees including drummers who liven up the events in Nyarugusu.

She pointed out that their asylum is almost at an end.

“You have heard that Tanzania has told you that it intends to close schools and hospitals in the camps, so what will be your fate and that of your children? Assistance will also be temporarily suspended. Would you like to be forcibly repatriated? I don’t imagine we’re going to get to this stage!“, she asked them, “pretending to sympathize”, according to refugees.

For his part, Nestor Bimenyimana, director general of repatriation in Burundi, won over the refugees with the return package.

“The sum that a returnee must receive has been increased to up to 560,000 Bif (more than $190 on the official rate), plus food in kind and the construction of houses. You will also receive regular monitoring from several NGOs in the areas of health and children’s schooling. Take advantage of this opportunity to make a good decision, otherwise around November 2023, all these advantages can be removed”, he tried to appease the Burundian refugees.

Returnees in the game

The testimonies of the returnees, members of the Burundian delegation, came to support the speeches of the officials.

“We can affirm that we are well received, well assisted, that the country is stable, that we go about our daily activities without problems and that we are accompanied for community recovery”, listed former refugees in a very convincing tone. .

Those interested are reluctant

These testimonies were brushed aside by the refugees.

“I was prosecuted after being repatriated and I went back to exile. There are about a hundred of us here, others have gone back to Rwanda, Uganda or Kenya, without mentioning the returnees who have been killed or imprisoned, accused of collaborating with rebel groups. So you want us to return with this climate of mistrust to the original villages? retorted returnees who have returned to Tanzania in recent years.

Burundian refugees say they prefer “to die in the land of exile instead of throwing themselves into the fire”.

However, community leaders qualify, stressing that those who want to return can do so on a personal basis but that “mass repatriation is not to be recommended”.

Mixed position of the Tanzanian authorities

The Tanzanian government says it is only upholding the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees which sets out the rights of refugees and the obligations of states that provide their protection.

Tanzanian government spokesman Guerson Msigwa explained this in an interview with the BBC last June.

“The Tanzanian government has no intention of turning back Burundian refugees. We’ll discuss another good way to convince them to come back. What is most important for Tanzania is that Burundian refugees return to contribute to the building of their native country, but of their own free will. We encourage them to do so”, said Guerson Msigwa.

However, the refugees consider that the restrictive measures taken to make life tougher in the camps, arbitrary arrests as well as these ultimatums from the Burundian and Tanzanian delegations only contradict the public and official position of the Tanzanian government and translate into action “the recourse to forced repatriation”.

Last Wednesday, Said Marijani, responsible for refugees in the Kigoma region (northwestern Tanzania) where two Burundian refugee camps, namely Nduta and Nyarugusu, are based, threatened that his country was preparing to drive out Burundian refugees.

“We are going to start two types of repatriation of Burundian refugees after the so-called voluntary one : repatriation by zone and by force (as was the case in the Mtabila camp more than 10 years ago). After the month of October, strategies will change”, he said.

The refugees who confided in SOS Médias Burundi speak of “threats and violations of our rights”.

This year, the Burundian authorities, who have sent emissaries to countries in the sub-region to convince refugees from the small East African nation to return, want to repatriate at least 173,000 Burundians.

In Tanzania, Burundian refugees denounce what they describe as “harassment” to “force us to return”.

Previous Nduta (Tanzania) : an SOS for a dying child
Next Gitega : the prosecutor demands sentences of up to 5 years in prison for alleged homosexuals