- European Commission (EC) and United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) today signed a 2.5 million Euros agreement to help relocate hundreds of thousands of Burundian refugees who have for the past 36 years been living in Tanzania.
UNHCR earlier this year launched a special request, seeking $US 34.3 million, to carry out implementation of this strategy in 2008-2009.
According to a report issued by EC today, the two-year strategy aims to bring a dignified end to one of the most prolonged refugee situations in the world.
Report shows that some 218,000 Burundians who fled their country in 1972 have since been living in three settlements in Tabora and Rukwa region of Tanzania.
"In 2007, 20 percent of these refugees indicated their desire to return to Burundi while 80 percent expressed wish to stay in Tanzania and apply for citizenship," it says.
It further indicates that in a unique act of humanity, Tanzanian government offered the refugees right to Tanzanian citizenship.
Project is designed to help put this into practice through financing of registration facilitation, report says.
"Since launch of this strategy in the beginning of March 2008, over 35,000 adult refugees have applied for naturalisation and over 12,000 refugees have already been assisted to return voluntarily to Burundi," it notes.
New contribution from EC's development fund, according to report, will go towards processing of citizenship applications, to be filed by some 76,000 adult refugees.
Process is conducted by Tanzanian central, regional and district authorities, in accordance with Tanzanian citizenship law and with assistance from UNHCR and its partners.
"The decision by the Tanzanian authorities to offer citizenship is a unique and unprecedented act of generosity and humanity. The European Commission congratulates the government for their magnanimous gesture and has decided to help finance the putting of this into action," commented Tim Clarke, Ambassador and Head of EC delegation to Tanzania.
With some 7.4 million Euros contributed so far for 2008, EC is, as in previous years, largest donor to refugee operations in Tanzania and has provided over 50 million Euros in last three years for this purpose, report further says.
"The strong support by the European Commission to the UNHCR operations in Tanzania is vital in our search for lasting and dignified solutions for the remaining refugee population in the settlements and the camps," says UNHCR country representative, Yacoub El Hillo.
According UNHCR, in addition to settlement refugees, Tanzania also hosts 60,000 Burundian and 89,000 Congolese refugees in four remaining camps in Kigoma region where EC is also supporting protection, camp services and voluntary repatriation, through its (UNHCR) operations.
The report concludes that in line with this, UNHCR has also received 800,000 Euros support, for voluntary repatriation from ECHO, humanitarian wing of EC.
UNHCR is said to have so far found solutions for more than 61,000 refugees through voluntary repatriation, resettlement and naturalisation for 2008.
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