from ALLOYCE KIMBUNGA in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania
DAR-ES-SALAAM, (CAJ News) – TANZANIAN authorities have allegedly forced more than 200 unregistered asylum seekers into returning to Burundi despite the political crisis in the latter.
Human rights groups reported Tanzania had done this by threatening to withhold the refugees’ legal status.
The forced returns follow an August 24 agreement between Tanzania and Burundi that seeks to repatriate about 180 000 Burundian refugees by December 31.
Bill Frelick, refugee rights director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said Tanzanian authorities had intensified pressure on unregistered Burundian refugees to the point of coercion, violating their rights under international law.
“Tanzania appears to be acting on its threat to drive out some 180 000 refugees who are at risk of serious harm in Burundi,” he said.
HRW expressed concern that the Tanzanian authorities’ coercion of over 200 unregistered Burundians on October 15 might lead the authorities to target more such people.
“Tanzania’s intimidation of unregistered Burundians in the camps appears to be just the first step in targeting the most vulnerable people in the camps,” Frelick said.
He said the international community must play a stronger role to protect and Burundians seeking refuge in Tanzania.
Multitudes of Burundians have fled their country since President Pierre Nkurunziza started a political crisis by seeking a third term against the constitution in 2015.
His government is accused of persecuting opponents then, and ahead of the next elections next year.
– CAJ News