Tanzania expels over 25 000 Burundians
12 September 2013, 12:31
Bujumbura - At least 25 000 Burundian refugees living in
Tanzania have been forcibly repatriated over the past month, a UN official said
on Thursday, describing a "dramatic" humanitarian situation.
Close to a million refugees fled from Burundi to stable
Tanzania when civil war broke out in 1993, and most returned voluntarily after
the conflict in their country ended in 2006.
But patience appears to have run out in Tanzania, which has
hosted millions of refugees over the past decades from conflicts across
Africa's Great Lakes region, and authorities have been accelerating expulsions
of refugees from Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Tanzania views the refugees as illegal immigrants.
"It's difficult to estimate exactly the number of
Burundians already expelled from Tanzania, but there are at least 20 000 over
the past month and probably between 20 000 and 30 000," Catherine Huck of
the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) told AFP.
She said trucks carrying hundreds of refugees were crossing
the border each day, with many of those expelled without access to shelter or
"The Burundian government must organise convoys to
bring the expelled persons back to their villages. The needs are enormous, and
the international community must get involved," she said.
The expulsions coincide with a diplomatic tussle between
Tanzania, exasperated by the continuous flood of refugees from the Great Lakes
region and engaged in a UN force in the Democratic Republic of Congo's eastern
Kivu region, and Rwanda, which denies charges of being a key backer of one of
the main Congolese rebel groups.