Though extremely generous towards some half a million refugees on its soil, the Tanzanian Government recently forced two asylum-seeking families with genuine reasons to fear persecution to return to Burundi, reflecting hardening attitudes among the authorities in the East African country, the United Nations refugee agency said today.
Representatives from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had interviewed both families, determined that their fear of persecution was genuine and had received Tanzania's assurances that they would be given asylum.
UNHCR staff were not notified that the decision had been reversed and had had no opportunity, therefore, to find alternatives for the families, it said. The agency called on the government to treat asylum seekers in accordance with international law and asked to be included in the screening process.
The agency thanked the Government for hosting in camps some 400,000 refugees, mainly from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), while thousands more lived in settlements along the border, but noted that refugees recently were ordered to stay in their camps and refrain from any commercial activity.