The Tanzanian government says it will no longer accept any more Burundian refugees, as a new government prepares to take office in Bujumbura.
Emmanuel Maganga, Kigoma regional commissioner, told a news conference that the Burundian refugees already in the country have to prepare to return home.
Currently, there are 137,000 refugees in Nyarugusu camp, 75,000 refugees in Nduta camp and 32,000 refugees in Mtendeli camp in that province. Most of these refugees fled following violence before and after the failed coup of May 2015.
In Rwanda, there are more than 100,000 of similar refugees. While most are living in a camp near Burundi, others have settled in Rwandan communities and working in the country.
“There are people in Burundi who have made it a habit to run away from their country even when there is no reason,” said Maganga, a retired Brigade General from Tanzania’s People’s Defense Forces.
Kigoma region, located on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, shelters refugees from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The latest warning from the Tanzania government comes as President elect Gen Evariste Ndayishimiye is preparing to take oath of office after he won elections last month. Though the opposition is contesting the results, the ruling CNDD-FDD party candidate is expected to take over without much of a challenge.
In January, the same Tanzanian regional official warned refugees sheltered in camps in the region to stop moving outside their camp sites as a protective measure against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Maganga said that refugees wandering outside their camps will lose their refugee status and be charged in court.
“Since the region is sheltering a good number of refugees from neighboring countries, letting them to wander outside their camps will frustrate measures aimed at controlling the spread of the viral disease,” Maganga told a meeting that discussed the best ways of protecting the western region against the COVID-19 threat.