DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania's Minister for Home Affairs, Mwigulu Nchemba, on Thursday demanded the UN refugees agency to start repatriating over 8,000 Burundian refugees who have volunteered to go back home within seven days.
Speaking at Nduta refugee camp in the east African nation's western region of Kigoma, Nchemba said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should immediately start organizing logistics for the safe return of the refugees.
"Failure to repatriate the refugees, I will consult with the Minister for Defence to release military trucks that will ferry the refugees to Burundi," said Nchemba.
He said since the refugees volunteered to return to Burundi last month, nothing was moving ahead.
Late last month, more than 5,000 Burundian refugees staying in camps in western Tanzania volunteered to return home following a recent appeal by Tanzanian President John Magufuli to them to return home and help build their country.
Emmanuel Maganga, the Kigoma Regional Commissioner, said 5,327 Burundian refugees from Nduta, Nyarugusu and Mtendeli refugee camps had volunteered to go home, adding that 4,935 of them were from Nduta, 364 from Nyarugusu and 28 from Mtendeli.
Currently Nduta sheltered 124,914 Burundian refugees, Nyarugusu 75,761 refugees and Mtendeli 49,839 refugees.
Maganga said the voluntary repatriation was continuous but explained that the Kigoma regional authorities were awaiting a tripartite meeting between Tanzania, Burundi and UNHCR to deliberate on the voluntary return of the refugees.
"After that meeting Burundian leaders will be allowed to visit refugee camps in Tanzania and convince the refugees to return home," he said.
On July 20, Magufuli called on the Burundian refugees now in the country to return home voluntarily and help build their country, asserting that now there was security in the tiny central African country.
Magufuli's remarks were in support of an earlier plea by Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza, who had called on his fellow countrymen to go back home and help rebuild their country because the "war is over."
Magufuli also took a swipe at international humanitarian bodies for trying to convince refugees not to return to their home countries due to continued insecurity, just so they can continue receiving aid from donors.
The president also directed the Ministry of Home Affairs not to grant citizenship to any more Burundian refugees coming into Tanzania.
In 2014, Tanzania announced that it was in the process of granting citizenship to 162,000 Burundian refugees who had fled their country in 1972.
In June, the UN refugee agency said Tanzania remained the largest host of Burundian refugees.
Tanzania is currently home to more than 315,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, mainly from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They are hosted in three refugee camps of Nyarugusu, Nduta, and Mtendeli, which face severe pressure.
Source: NAM News NETWORK