Dar to explore new option to repatriate refugees

DAR ES SALAAM: Tanzania announced Monday plans to conduct political dialogues with its neighboring countries as an attempt to secure a better option of sending back all the remaining refugees.

President Samia Suluhu Hassan told the Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) Gen. Jacob Mkunda in Dar es Salaam on Monday that there is a need for a proactive approach “given the changing dynamics in the refugee landscape”. President Samia was attending the 7th meeting between the CDF and commanders of the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces (TPDF) held in Dar es Salaam.

According to the Commander-In-Chief collaborative efforts with global refugee organizations (the UN refugee agency (UNHCR)) have been pursued, however, their efficacy has diminished over time.

“The government will intensify political dialogues to address the evolving challenges associated with the prolonged stay of refugees,” she said, agreeing to the need for a detailed survey to identify the level of refugees and asylum seekers in the country.

General Mkunda had expressed concern over existing “long-term” refugees and asylum seekers in the country, deeming it a potential threat.

He called for a specialized survey on refugees and advocated for concerted efforts to facilitate their return.

Initially, Tanzania had reached an agreement with neighbouring Burundi to voluntary repatriate all Burundian refugees from October 2019, the effort that was collaboratively organised with the United Nations.

However, details from the government indicated that between January 1, and December 30, 2023 a total of 138,149 asylum seekers were received in Tanzania and most of them coming from DRC, Rwanda and Burundi.

Gen. Mkunda said refugees are the country’s biggest security threat in the western regions.

The East African country has been receiving applications for asylum seekers and refugees from Burundi since 1972, Rwanda 1994 and DRC 1996. A total of 27,000 refugees from Burundi were not placed in refugee camps and instead the government decided to divide them into 73 villages in Kigoma region.

“The refugees and their families still continue to live in those villages using various methods to ensure that their descendants get Tanzanian citizenship through an unlawful process,” Gen. Mkunda told the President.

He insisted most asylum seekers have run to Tanzania due to economic reasons and not security.

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