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Group of Tanzanian refugees repatriated from Kenya to Pemba island: UNHCR

Group of Tanzanian refugees repatriated from Kenya to Pemba island: UNHCR

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has completed the repatriation of a large group of Tanzanian refugees who had been staying in Shimoni, a small fishing town on the Kenyan coast south of Mombassa, the agency reported today.

The 667 refugees, many of them opposition supporters from the island of Pemba, fled to Kenya after political violence erupted on the Tanzanian islands of Zanzibar and Pemba in late January. The Government of Tanzania has since given assurances that upon their return to Pemba, the refugees would not be prosecuted as a group for their involvement in the January demonstrations, UNHCR said, adding that the repatriation effort had ended last Friday.

UNHCR said its staff in Pemba and Zanzibar were now monitoring the return. "They are working closely with the government, the opposition Civic United Front and returnee families, focusing on vulnerable groups," UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski told the press today in Geneva, noting that the agency would monitor the treatment of those who may be accused of offences during the demonstration to ensure that due process was followed.

The UN agency will also work with partner agencies such as UNICEF to ensure that children are re-admitted to schools.

"No serious problems have been reported so far," the spokesman said. "We expect to maintain a monitoring presence in Pemba and Zanzibar for the coming weeks."