Burundi + 1 more

Tanzanian camps now strained beyond capacity

For decades Tanzanians have shown exceptional hospitality by hosting millions of refugees from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Somalia. In recent months, tens of thousands of Burundian refugees have fled to camps in Western Tanzania seeking to escape the violence in their own country. As Refugees International reported on January 20, 2000, the government regroupment camps in Burundi continue to push Burundians into the perceived security of Tanzania. December alone saw over 21,000 new arrivals. The outflow had continued throughout January at the rate of 5,000 people per week.
This flood of humanity has seriously strained Tanzanian government resources and burdened host communities. The total number of refugees, 500,000 in Kigoma and Kagera provinces, threatens to eclipse the local population. The large refugee population has reportedly caused increased insecurity, with incidents of robberies, rapes, and theft of crops on the rise. The refugees themselves have been the victims of violence. RI previously reported that one in four refugee women claimed to have been the victim of rape or severe sexual harassment.

Western Tanzania is one of the poorest areas on earth with serious pre-existing needs in food security and community services. This reality, combined with the remote location and lack of public attention, has placed both refugees and local Tanzanian communities in a tenuous position. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reportedly was required to cut funding in Tanzania by an incredible 25 percent due to lack of donor support. This is an intolerable situation.

RI notes that UNHCR has committed to increase its support for additional Tanzanian police to provide camp security despite these cuts. This is a critically important action long overdue. RI also applauds the very positive step taken by the Tanzanian government to make available additional land for refugee camps, including the reopening of previously closed camps that still retain water and sanitation infrastructure.

But these steps will prove inadequate without a significant increase in donor support to UNHCR and to the refugee-impacted communities. The imbalance in resources available for refugees and Tanzanians is seriously straining relations between the two communities and eroding support within Tanzania for hosting refugees. If Tanzania is to remain the invaluable partner it has been for the international community, support must be forthcoming immediately to address the real humanitarian needs of communities in this impoverished region.

In order to meet the needs of an increasing refugee population, address the real needs of Tanzanian host communities, and ensure that Tanzania remains a hospitable place for refugees, Refugees International recommends that:


Provide UNHCR with the funds it needs to adequately care for refugees in

Provide additional funding to UNHCR to assist local host communities with food security, health care, and education

Encourage UNDP to take a far more active role in western Tanzania

Expand bilateral aid assistance to western Tanzania - especially Kigoma and Kagera provinces

Provide UNHCR with additional resources to significantly increase the number of police in the camps

Expand assistance Tanzania to increase police presence in villages and towns near refugee camps


Expand the effort to include refugee impacted communities in refugee assistance programs

Work to build ties between refugees and local populations through cooperative community development programs

Work closely with UNICEF and UNDP to form an integrated plan to assist both refugees and host communities


Consider moving some refugee camps located near the border with Burundi further inland to reduce the influence of non-state actors in the region

Reduce the size of refugee camps to allow for better management and reduced impact on local communities

Encourage local communities to participate in community development programs made available by UNHCR

Contact: Steven Smith or Sayre Nyce
TEL: 202-828-0110 or ri@refintl.org