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2005 US promise stymies closure of Nyarugusu Camp

Discussion in 'Habari na Hoja mchanganyiko' started by nngu007, May 29, 2011.

  1. nngu007

    nngu007 JF-Expert Member

    May 29, 2011
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    By In2EastAfrica - Sat May 28, 9:10 pm

    Nyarugusu Refugee Camp

    A 2005-promise by the United States to resettle Burundi refugees in the country is considered as a snag to the closure of the Nyarugusu Camp and prompting refugees not to voluntarily agree to the plan.
    “The stand of the government till now is that the Nyarugusu Refugee Camp needs to be shut down but investigations have shown that there are many factors keeping them here in spite of the prevailing peace in Congo, especially the parts where they come from,” Mr Steven Daniel said.
    The Ministry of Home Affairs Camp official, Mr Daniel said the ministry together with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had visited the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) close to five times and were confident that peace and security had prevailed in the region but the refugees had proved defiant.
    Mr Daniel said that the Tanzanian government had evidence to show that largely due to the dependency syndrome of receiving free food, clothing and other basic necessities. The refugees because of the very porous borders of the camp and country were going back to Congo only to return with relatives especially children below 18 years old.
    He said many of the refugees believed that if they stayed at the camp until its closure, they would benefit from the resettlement offer given by the United States to go and live abroad.
    “The refusal to return home has ceased being that of security concern, but rather of economic gains and the resettlement issue. In 2005 the US promised to take between 13,000 and 15,000 people and this is driving many people insane,” he said.
    He also said that a survey conducted in December 2010 showed that 65.5 per cent of the 63,000 population currently at the camp are 17 years old and below. The survey also showed that the government was carrying a huge load hosting them.
    Citing another reason for their refusal to return home, the camp official said that the 200 plus ‘panya’ routes enabled between 20 to 25 refugees everyday to cross into Congo and come back with merchandise to do business.
    He said over the years overseas families living in the camps have been sending millions of shillings through money transfers to buy and send them goods, giving the refugees big benefits.
    “It is with this money that they are able to cross to Congo where they go to build houses and settle on the land, causing domestic disputes before they carry with them other goods to do business in the camps,” he elaborated.
    The Kasulu District Administrative Secretary, Mr Simon Nkumbi told a team of visiting journalists from Dar es Salaam that the government would like the United States to either start resettling the refugees or altogether scrap off their promise.
    “The United States is keeping them in a limbo and in turn the burden is landing on our shoulders. Owing to that promise, refugees have refused to leave. Statistics over the months show that fewer and fewer people are registering for repatriation,” he said.
    Mr Nkumbi admitted that the Nyarugusu Camp was turning into a leisure camp for the Congolese refugees and that the movement of people going across the border and back was largely due to the porous nature of the 140km border.
    He said that it was difficult to keep track of the movement, but was quick to say that unlike the thinking of UNHCR officials who said that the camp supervisors aired negative news about the refugees, there was ample proof of numerous illegal acts that had taken place, which were connected to this movement.
    There is, however, light at the end of the tunnel, thanks to Tanzania and Burundi’s decision 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 tripartite 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.
    The commission deliberated on the plight of Burundi refugees in the country. The UN refugee 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.
    By MASEMBE TAMBWE, Tanzania Daily News