aid & development

Tanzania: Dar - No Ire Over Trump Refugees Cut

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The government has said that it has no ill-feelings over the stance taken by the US government, to slash down the number of Congolese refugees from Tanzanian camps seeking resettlement into United States, saying it will continue providing essential services to those currently being sheltered in the country.

The US government recently issued an Executive Order cutting by more than half the number of Congolese refugees from Tanzanian camps, seeking resettlement into United States, this year.

According to reports by UNHCR, the number of Congolese refugees projected to be resettled in United States this year has dropped from 6,500 to 3,100, due to the US cap.

Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ambassador Hassan Yahaya, told the 'Daily News' yesterday that the government has no authority over the exercise.

"We have no hands over this exercise, under the burden sharing principle the US government has been taking a certain number of refugees to be resettled in its country after conducting refugee resettlement interviews," he said.

He noted that although the international community is obliged to support countries hosting refugees, but it has the power to decide on the number of asylum seekers to be transferred to the third country.

"If the third country decides to take a large number of refugees it provides relief to the host country but if it also transfers a small number of them it is also okay for us," he said.

Ambassador Yahaya said that the US government has made its decision, thus his government will continue to provide essential services to refugees currently being sheltered in the country while other efforts were being undertaken to restore peace in their home countries.

He further noted that the government is normally provided with notification after all the resettlement procedures are completed.

Under former President Obama's administration, some 33,000 Congolese refugees had been offered re-settlement into the US, then hosted in Western Tanzanian refugee camps under a three-year resettlement programme, which kicked off in 2015 with the resettlement of 6,844 followed by 7,531 others last year.

Early this year, President Donald Trump slammed an order banning refugees from entering the US for 120 days. The UNHCR Representative to Tanzania, Ms Chansa Kapaya, said resettlement of refugees to third countries was a formal way of burden sharing among nations, and that it was a reliable option to provide a lasting solution to refugees who are facing health and security threats in the first countries of asylum.

Echoing the sentiments of many refugees who have spent more than 20 years at Nyarugusu camp in Tanzania's Kibondo District, a representative from the camp made a spirited public appeal for over-stayed refugees and those born and brought up in the remote camps to be re- settled, saying, "they neither know about their country of origin nor of their destiny".

The refugees' representative made this call at a colourful ceremony commemorating this year's Refugee Day in Dar es Salaam. Saying: "A number of refugees in Tanzanian camps have lost hope of going back to their countries of origin due to perpetual state of insecurity and scarce land to accommodate them."

With more than 241,000 refugees living on its soil, Tanzania has become the largest host of Burundian refugees and asylum-seekers in the East African region, UNHCR has said, in a statement to commemorate the World Refugee Day, held last week.

Ms Kapaya said, "More than 80 per cent of the world's refugees do not live in Europe where the Refugee Convention began, but live in developing countries like Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda to mention a few in the region."

Currently, Tanzania is home to more than 315,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, mainly from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Con- go, hosted in the three refugee camps of Nyarugusu, Nduta, and Mtendeli, located in Kigoma Region.

The Nyarugusu camp, which is now one of the largest refugee camps in the world, hosts more than 139,000 individuals amid an urgent need for decongestion programme, which was halted last July due to limited space in the other camps.

Credits: Lydia Shekighenda (Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam))