Last Updated: Monday, 23 October 2017, 10:48 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Tanzania

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 25 May 2004
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Tanzania , 25 May 2004, available at: [accessed 23 October 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 some 480,000 refugees at the end of 2003, including more than 325,000 from Burundi, some 150,000 from Congo-Kinshasa, about 3,000 from Somalia, and 2,000 from various other countries including Rwanda.

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

An estimated 13,000 new refugees fled to Tanzania during 2003 primarily from Burundi and Congo-Kinshasa during 2003.

Refugees from Burundi

Increased violence and poor security at home forced nearly 8,000 new Burundian refugees to flee to Tanzania during 2003, joining more than 325,000 others who had fled there during the past decade to escape warfare and human rights violations in their own country.

Nearly all new arrivals from Burundi fled to Tanzania's western Kibondo region during the first four months of the year. Many new arrivals were refugees who had repatriated earlier in the year, only to flee again.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) maintained eleven camps, strung along a 150-mile (250 km) stretch of Tanzania's northwestern border, for Burundian refugees. Chronic budget constraints, remote camp locations, poorly maintained roads, and deteriorating security hampered international assistance. The Tanzanian government reported that an additional 300,000 Burundians lived in western Tanzanian villages, and some 170,000 others resided in makeshift settlements.

Tanzanian authorities denied refugee status to Burundians living outside designated refugee areas, and USCR considered these 470,000 Burundians as living in refugee-like conditions. UNHCR provided no humanitarian assistance to them.

An estimated 85,000 Burundian refugees repatriated from Tanzania during 2003, including about 37,000 who received assistance from UNHCR. Despite continued violence in many regions of Burundi, UNHCR and the governments of Tanzania and Burundi signed a Tripartite Agreement in August to facilitate repatriation, including opening new crossing sites along the Tanzania-Burundi border. UNHCR did not actively encourage Burundians to return home, but the agency facilitated the repatriation of about 37,000. UNHCR repatriation convoys crossed into Burundi through Kobero and Murusagamba border points, repatriating refugees only to Muyinga and Cankuzo Provinces, which UNHCR deemed safe. Poor security in much of southern Burundi prevented about 100,000 Burundian refugees from repatriating from camps near the town of Kasulu.

Refugees who repatriated with UNHCR assistance received plastic sheeting, blankets, kitchen utensils, water containers, and transportation to their province of origin. The World Food Programme (WFP) provided registered returnees with a three-month food supply.

More than 45,000 Burundians repatriated spontaneously during the year. Improved peace prospects following the signing of the Pretoria Accords in November 2002, increased pressure from Tanzanian officials placed on refugees to leave the country, and worsened security in refugee areas prompted refugees to return to volatile areas of Burundi without international assistance, risking robbery, rape, and harassment during the dangerous journey home.

Tanzanian authorities continued to restrict the movement of Burundian refugees during the year, including enforcing an unwritten rule that prohibited refugees from traveling more than 2.5 miles (4 km) from their camps. Refugees who failed to obey the restrictions met harsh punishments, including up to two-year prison sentences and deportation to the Tanzania-Burundi border, in violation of Tanzania's nonrefoulement obligations under the UN Refugee Convention. These new restrictions drastically reduced refugees' ability to generate income as venders, farmers, and laborers by cutting their access to local markets and farmland.

Tanzanian authorities also closed certain border crossing points during the year, denying access to new asylum seekers. UNHCR documented several cases of refoulement by Tanzania in 2003.

Funding constraints forced WFP reduce food rations by as much as 70 percent during the year, causing increased malnutrition among refugees.

Tanzanian authorities coerced, threatened, and physically abused refugees to force their return, according to human rights groups. Criminal elements, members of armed militias, Tanzanian security personnel, and some refugees continued to commit murders, rapes, and armed robberies in refugee camp areas, Human Rights Watch reported. Negative media accounts and comment by government officials about refugees, in combination with intensified competition for scarce natural resources between refugees and local residents, contributed to increased violence against refugees. Persistent rumors alleging that Tanzania knowingly harbored Burundian armed rebels among the massive Burundian refugee population continued to strain relations between the Tanzanian and Burundian governments.

UNHCR provided only limited humanitarian assistance to the majority of returnees, resulting in inadequate food aid for repatriating Burundian refugees.

Refugees from Congo-Kinshasa

More than 150,000 refugees from Congo-Kinshasa lived in Tanzania at the end of 2003. Less than 500 Congolese refugees in Tanzania repatriated during the year.

Continued political instability and related violence in Congo-Kinshasa, despite a peace agreement and the inauguration of a transitional government, pushed nearly 6,000 new Congolese refugees into Tanzania during 2003.

Congolese refugees resided primarily in three camps – Nyarugusu, and Lugufu I and II – in western Tanzanian's Kigoma Region. Most new arrivals traveled by boat across Lake Tanganyika to reach camps in Tanzania. The camps had already reached capacity in October 2002, and continued refugee influxes during the first half of 2003 further strained water, health, sanitation, and education facilities in the camps. UNHCR and Tanzanian authorities agreed to shelter newly arrived refugees in empty plots in Nyarugusu camp and at a long-established transit camp known as the Kigoma National Milling Center.

International agencies have urged the Tanzania government and UNHCR to construct a new camp to accommodate Congolese refugee influxes, but, as of 2003, UNHCR took no action to build a proposed new camp at an alternative site in southwestern Tanzania.

Funding shortfalls forced UNHCR to curtail humanitarian assistance to refugees during 2003. The agency struggled to maintain minimal health care, shelter, and food assistance, reduced medicine provision, and postponed water system and classroom construction projects.

Refugees from Rwanda

More than 4,000 Rwandan refugees repatriated from Tanzania during the year. Thousands of other Rwandans who arrived in Tanzania many decades ago have settled into local villages.

During 2003, UNHCR closed Kitali refugee camp in the Kagera region of northwest Tanzania, which housed hundred of thousands of Rwandan Hutu refugees in previous years. Many had originally fled to Tanzania in 1994 as part of a massive influx of 500,000 refugees. Fewer than 100 officially recognized Rwandan refugees remained in Tanzanian camps at year's end.

The Tanzanian government's abrupt decree in October 2002 that all remaining Rwandan refugees should depart the country by year's end, in some cases threatening to burn down their homes if they refused, led UNHCR and many international observers, including USCR, to believe that the repatriation in 2002 and 2003 was less than fully voluntary and that most Rwandan refugees registered to repatriate because they believed they had no alternative.

In September, Tanzania expelled 922 Rwandan refugees living Ngara refugee camp in the northwestern Kagera region since 1994. The government rejected the Hutu refugees' asylum applications and expelled them to Rwanda after they refused to return voluntarily during UNHCR sponsored repatriations. Tanzanian authorities accepted only 42 applicants out of more than 1,000 Rwandans who applied for asylum.

Refugees from Somalia

UNHCR and Tanzanian authorities relocated more than 3,000 Somali refugees from Mkuyu camp in the eastern Tanzania region of Tanga to a new permanent settlement at Chogo. UNHCR closed Mkuyu camp in 2003. No Somali refugees repatriated during the year, according to UNHCR. Most Somali refugees had fled to Tanzania in the early 1990s to escape Somalia's civil war.

Nearly all Somali refugees depended on food aid, despite receiving land allocations for cultivation at Chogo. Refugees received health care, temporary shelter, and educational support to help facilitate their local integration. The Tanzanian government announced that it would favorably consider awarding citizenship to interested Somali refugees at Chogo.

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