A deal to begin repatriating almost 200,000 Burundi refugees from Tanzania beginning in October has sparked anxiety among the displaced, with individuals considering an appeal to the United Nations and at least one civil society group weighing a lawsuit over any forced return.
“It is clear that the Tanzanian government, in collaboration with the Burundian government, wants to bring us back home by force,” Renovat Nduwayo, a refugee at Nduta camp in western Tanzania, said of the repatriation pact between the two countries.
Tanzanian Interior Minister Kangi Lugola and his Burundi counterpart, Pascal Barandagiye, signed the agreement announced Sunday. As of October, it would return Burundi refugees at the rate of 2,000 a week from several camps in western Tanzania.
The latest figures from the U.N. Refugee Agency show almost 184,000 Burundi refugees in Tanzania, distributed among the Nduta, Mtendeli and Nyarugusu camps. They’re among nearly 350,000 Burundians fleeing the small, Central-East African country’s political unrest, which broke out after a controversial 2015 election giving President Pierre Nkurunziza a third term one enabling him to hold power until 2034.
Burundians also have sought refuge in other countries, primarily Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.
Tanzania’s Lugola said the agreement was negotiated after both country’s governments were “satisfied with the security situation in Burundi.”