Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2017, 16:28 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Tanzania

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 10 June 2002
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Tanzania , 10 June 2002, available at: [accessed 16 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Tanzania hosted approximately 500,000 refugees at the end of 2001, including more than 350,000 from Burundi, nearly 120,000 from Congo-Kinshasa, some 25,000 from Rwanda, and more than 3,000 from Somalia.

Tanzania also hosted an additional 300,000 to 470,000 Burundians who resided in western Tanzania in refugee-like circumstances without official refugee status.

An estimated 30,000 new refugees fled to Tanzania from Burundi and Congo-Kinshasa during 2001.

More than 2,000 Tanzanian refugees fled to Kenya in 2001, but had repatriated by year's end.

Refugee Protection

Increased crime – in some cases committed by refugees – and worsening security strained Tanzania's traditional hospitality toward asylum seekers during 2001. "Once famed for its open-door policy, Tanzania has become an increasingly reluctant host to refugees," a UN report asserted in November.

The overwhelming majority of refugees lived in Tanzania's impoverished northwest, where basic social services barely met the needs of local residents. Although 60 percent fewer refugees entered the country during 2001 than in 2000, the continued influx and the refugee population's long-term presence resulted in "a considerable hardening of attitude by Tanzania to refugees," the UN reported. The number of refugees in Tanzania has increased 30 percent during the past four years.

Humanitarian assistance agencies regularly expressed concern that the massive refugee population in Tanzania contained Burundian rebels and other militias that endangered the lives of refugees and local citizens. Persistent rumors alleging that Tanzania harbored Burundian armed elements strained relations between the neighboring governments.

"We have different kinds of refugees and political asylum seekers from different countries, including Burundi, but that is not proof that Tanzania is offering sanctuary to Burundi rebels," Tanzania's Minister of Foreign Affairs insisted in June. Preserving the civilian and humanitarian character in and around Tanzania's refugee camps remained a "main challenge," according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Criminal elements, members of armed militias, Tanzanian security personnel, and some refugees continued to commit murders, rapes, and armed robberies in refugee camps as well as against local citizens. UNHCR noted that reported incidents of sexual and gender-based violence decreased during 2001, but remained a significant problem. Cultural taboos and poor local justice systems discouraged reporting of such abuses.

Abductions of refugee children for human trafficking or participation in armed conflict increased during 2001. UNHCR investigations found that parents and other family relatives organized many of the "abductions," making prevention and prosecution difficult.

UNHCR provided funding in 2001 for some 300 police officers in refugee areas and employed three international field safety advisors in western Tanzania. UNHCR conducted workshops on refugee law and on problems of sexual and domestic violence for local police, refugee and community leaders, and humanitarian assistance workers. Government authorities arrested about 100 suspected combatants in the western border zone during 2001 and detained them at a "separation facility" funded by UNHCR.

Local government officials in recent years have become more aggressive in expelling small but significant numbers of refugees or former refugees living in western Tanzania. During 2001, UNHCR documented no cases of forced refugee repatriation (refoulement) and received no reports of government security personnel blocking asylum seekers at the border. However, government officials continued to urge Rwandan nationals settled in western Tanzania either to relocate to designated refugee settlements or return to Rwanda. Many chose to leave Tanzania under duress, in some cases without being informed of the option of relocating to refugee camps, according to some observers.

The Tanzanian government reiterated its policy that for the security of refugees and local residents, refugees were restricted from traveling more than 2.5 miles (4 km) outside of camp perimeters.

UNHCR and the Tanzanian Ministry of Home Affairs continued to discuss possible changes to Tanzania's 1998 Refugee Act. Although no revisions were made during 2001, UNHCR continued to recommend reforms that would render Tanzania's domestic refugee law more compatible with international refugee law in the protection of refugees' rights.

Refugee Humanitarian Assistance

Tanzania hosted one of Africa's largest refugee populations, approximately a half-million, at the end of 2001.

Most refugees lived in a 150-mile (250 km) string of camps and rudimentary settlements near Tanzania's western border with Rwanda, Burundi, and Congo-Kinshasa. The refugee population was nearly half as large as the western region's local population. Budget constraints, remote camp locations, poorly maintained roads, and deteriorating security hampered humanitarian assistance.

Donor nations provided nearly 80 percent of the funding requested by UN agencies in Tanzania during 2001. UNHCR required more than $21 million to implement its programs, and donor nations had provided nearly $19 million by year's end. When large-scale repatriation of Burundian refugees did not occur, UNHCR redistributed funds to support protection and assistance programs.

UNHCR maintained minimum life-sustaining activities, including basic health care, shelter, and water programs. But budget constraints forced humanitarian-aid workers to curtail programs for eye care, health education, mental-health services, and road repairs.

UNHCR also curtailed the procurement of emergency medicine and the distribution of soap, delayed the replacement of its aged heavy-vehicle fleet, and canceled the distribution of blankets, cooking pots, and other household items. Environmental and infrastructure-rehabilitation programs to lessen the degradation caused by the large refugee population continued on a reduced scale. "A continued lack of funding could result in a rapid decline in the great strides made in Tanzania in the past years," the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) reported.

Insufficient donor contributions forced the World Food Program (WFP) to reduce refugees' food rations by 20 percent for most of 2001. In March, Congolese refugees living in Lugufu I camp protested by refusing to accept the smaller rations. The boycott ended after police peacefully turned back an estimated 5,000 disgruntled refugees who had begun to march to the nearby town of Kigoma, western Tanzania. WFP resumed distribution of full rations in November.

Security conditions and the quality of life for refugees deteriorated during the food shortage. UNHCR reported increased domestic violence and theft in and around refugee camps. To generate income to supplement their diets, many refugees sold their food rations and nonfood items, including mosquito netting, which resulted in a higher incidence of malaria. A limited number of refugees, primarily Burundians living in long-established camps, supplemented their income by farming or working as laborers. Most refugees lacked alternative sources of income and remained dependent on WFP food rations.

Although mortality and malnutrition rates in refugee camps remained well below emergency thresholds, the number of persons suffering from nutritional deficiencies, malaria, and HIV/AIDS continued to rise.

Refugees from Burundi

Approximately 15,000 new Burundian refugees fled to Tanzania during 2001, joining more than 330,000 other Burundians who had fled there during the past decade to escape warfare and human rights violations in their own country. Nearly all of the new arrivals entered Tanzania in the first five months of the year.

UNHCR maintained ten camps to accommodate Burundian refugees. The Tanzanian government reported that an additional 300,000 Burundians lived in western Tanzanian villages, and some 170,000 others resided in makeshift settlements. Most have lived side-by-side with Tanzanian citizens for decades and are economically self-sufficient.

Tanzanian authorities denied official refugee status to Burundians living outside designated refugee areas, and the U.S. Committee for Refugees has described these Burundians for many years as a "refugee-like" population. UNHCR provided no humanitarian assistance to them.

The under-five mortality rate among Burundian refugees – one death for every 1,000 children – remained at a level equal to that of developing nations. In refugee camps that received new arrivals during 2001, including the Kitali Hills, Karago, and Lugufu camps, the under-five mortality rate was more than double the average of all other camps. UNHCR attributed the higher death rate to the "vulnerability of newly arrived refugees to disease, as well as the relatively young health care systems in the relatively newly established camps."

Malaria remained the leading cause of death among Burundian refugee adults and children. During seasonal rains, when prevalence of malaria was at its peak, UNHCR distributed protective materials and sprayed the camps for mosquitoes.

In June, Ministry of Home Affairs officials convened mass meetings in refugee camps to refute growing rumors that government authorities intended to repatriate all Burundian refugees forcibly. Some refugees, fearing a quick forced return, sold their household items, while others stopped participating in community activities. UNHCR reassured refugees that organized voluntary repatriation would only occur once security conditions in Burundi significantly improved.

Despite dangerous conditions, an estimated 30,000 Burundians repatriated during 2001.

Refugees from Congo-Kinshasa

Some 120,000 refugees from Congo-Kinshasa lived in Tanzania at the end of 2001.

Persistent armed conflict, political instability, and deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Congo-Kinshasa pushed nearly 15,000 new Congolese refugees into Tanzania during 2001. Many new arrivals traveled by boat across Lake Tanganyika in the final three months of the year to reach Tanzania.

Congolese refugees resided primarily in three camps: Nyarugusu and Lugufu I and II, in Kigoma Province. UN agencies conducted an assessment to determine refugee self-reliance in the camps. Building upon existing agriculture and income-generation projects, UNHCR and WFP formed district-level task forces to coordinate new self-reliance programs.

Refugees from Rwanda

Some 25,000 Rwandan refugees lived in Tanzania at the end of 2001, including 3,000 new arrivals. Newly arrived refugees fled political and ethnic tensions in Rwanda, including allegations of arbitrary arrests.

The Tanzanian government required all new Rwandan asylum seekers to appear before the government's National Eligibility Commission (NEC) to determine whether they were genuine refugees. Because of a considerable backlog of asylum cases, no new Rwandan asylum seekers appeared before the NEC in 2001. Since its inception in 1998, the NEC has granted refugee status to 99 percent of all new Rwandan asylum seekers, and has not identified any Rwandans as "excludable" (on the grounds of crimes against humanity, including genocide).

Government officials conducted an initial screening of newly arrived asylum seekers at Mbuba transit center in northwest Tanzania. Most newly recognized refugees moved into established refugee camps. Thousands of refugees who arrived many years ago have settled into local villages.

Some 5,000 Rwandans voluntarily repatriated during 2001, nearly all with assistance from UNHCR. Many refugee leaders received transportation from UNHCR to visit their home communities before repatriating.

Government officials transferred nearly 500 Rwandans to refugee camps during 2001 as part of the government's occasional crackdown on Rwandans living outside camps.

Refugees from Somalia

More than 3,000 Somali refugees, most of whom had fled to Tanzania in the early 1990s to escape civil war in Somalia, continued to live at Mkuyu settlement in the eastern Tanzania province of Tanga.

Nearly all Somali refugees depended on food aid during 2001. UNHCR and Tanzanian officials agreed in 1999 to establish a new site, Chogo, where Somali refugees could become self-sufficient through farming; however, because of construction delays caused in part by budget constraints, UNHCR had not completed Chogo by year's end.

Tanzanian Refugees

A government crackdown on opposition demonstrators on the Tanzanian islands of Zanzibar and Pemba killed dozens of civilians and uprooted more than 2,000 others in January 2001. Tanzanian authorities forcefully repressed demonstrations held by supporters of the Civic United Front (CUF) opposition party, which accused the government of election fraud and called for a repeat of October 2000 elections in Zanzibar. Demonstrators suffered "killings, mass arrests, unlawful detentions, torture, and rape," Amnesty International reported.

Most of the more than 2,000 refugees, including nearly 20 Zanzibarian opposition members of parliament and 30 civilians suffering from bullet wounds, fled by boat to the southeastern Kenyan coastal village of Shimoni. However, most had voluntarily repatriated by the end of August 2001.

Search Refworld