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Tanzania Closes Burundian Refugee Camp

Tanzania To Close Camp As Burundian Refugees Return Home, UN Says

Some 5,500 Burundian refugees in Tanzania will be relocated to another camp towards the end of this month as part of plans to consolidate camps amid the ongoing Burundi repatriation operation, the United Nations refugee agency said today.

The Tanzanian Government is set to close Karago camp, one of nine camps for Burundian refugees in northwestern Tanzania, in the next few weeks, said UNHCR’s Jennifer Pagonis today in Geneva. The 5,500 refugees will be moved to the neighbouring Mtendeli camp, where they will receive the same assistance.

“Under a tripartite agreement with UNHCR and Burundi, the Tanzanian authorities agreed that all camps with a refugee population under 10,000 refugees would be closed,” she said, adding that the programme is an attempt to consolidate camps that empty out with the departure of Burundian refugees for home.

“We hope to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of about 85,000 Burundian refugees from Tanzania in 2005,” she said. In the first three months of this year, UNHCR helped 7,800 refugees return home. Concerns among the refugees over the availability of basic services in their home country and the peace process partially explain the drop in repatriation numbers.

Funding is also a key constraint for the operation. Of the $62.3 million needed for the repatriation programme this year, donors have so far provided only some $8.5 million, or just 14 per cent.

More than 158,000 Burundian refugees have returned home with UNHCR’s assistance since the voluntary repatriation programme from Tanzania began in March 2002. More than half those returns – 83,000 – took place in 2004, with numbers decreasing towards the end of the year. The year-end decline was mainly due to uncertainty among the refugees about the security situation in Burundi ahead of the February referendum.

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