Mozambique hosted some 8,000 refugees and asylum seekers at the end of 2003, mostly from Rwanda, Burundi, and Congo-Kinshasa.
Refugee Influx and Assistance
The refugee population in Mozambique has tripled since 2000 including those who fled war in Congo-Kinshasa and Burundi, and Rwandan refugees who fled camps in Tanzania where, officials pressured them to repatriate. About half of them lived in and around the capital, Maputo, where they received little or no humanitarian assistance.
Mozambican officials shut down overcrowded Bobole and Massaka camps on the outskirts of Maputo in April 2003, after the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration completed the transfer of 1,000 refugees to Marrantane camp 1,300 miles (2,100 km) north of Maputo to Napula Province, one of the poorest provinces in the country. The government also relocated some refugees to Niassa Province in northern Mozambique.
The Mozambican government had pressured refugees to relocate to the north for many years, denying aid and asylum to most who chose to remain around Maputo. According to the government, Marrantane camp provided refugees with agricultural land, promoted self-sufficiency, and reduced illegal immigration into South Africa. During 2003, the Mozambican government granted refugee status to only 207 refugees, mostly from Congo-Kinshasa and began processing the four-year backlog of asylum applications of Bobole camp residents who relocated to Marrantane camp.
Marrantane camp was the only refugee camp in Mozambique at the end of 2003, hosting over 5,000 refugees. Some 2,000 Rwandans in the camp are mostly Hutus allegedly complicit in Rwanda's genocide who are unwilling to repatriate. The camp consists of 300 semi-permanent houses, a health center, a Portuguese-language school, and a French-language school. Camp residents received food, shelter, health care, water, education, language training, and other social services. Officials made more than 7,000 acres (about 3,000 hectares) near the camp available for farming.
In December, UNHCR and the governments of Mozambique and Rwanda signed a Tripartite Agreement for the voluntary repatriation of the 2,000 Rwandan refugees remaining in Mozambique.
Although government officials placed restrictions on urban refugees' property rights, employment, freedom of movement, and access to education, many refugees and asylum seekers – particularly young males – chose to remain in the Maputo area where they evaded employment restrictions and, in some cases, sought entry into neighboring South Africa.