Most neighbouring countries bordering conflict zones, Tanzania included, have often found themselves as safe destinations for thousands of people fleeing the turmoil in their own unfortunate countries. Make-shift camps had to be erected hastily to provide shelter for the incoming refugees.
Playing host to refugees has not been an easy task. The enormous human movement and accommodation has resulted in a number of negatives, including environmental plunder and ultimate degradation and undue pressure on the social services. One of the camps, the Katumba refugee camp in Mpanda District, Rukwa Region, has been hosting thousands of refugees from neighbouring Burundi for the last four decades.
Despite UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) offer of assistance and cash incentives, just a few hundred Burundian refugees returned from Tanzania in 2011. At least 160,000 have opted to take Tanzanian citizenship because some have been in the country since 1972.The other 44,000 were repatriated to their home country.
There are complaints by refugees who opted for naturalisation that since 2008, they still do not know their fate as the process is taking too long. Speaking to a team of envoy from France, UK, Finland, Norway and Japan some refugees said that they still do not know for how long they will continue to be living at the camp or relocated to other parts of the country.
It is hoped that the Ministry of Home Affairs will speed up the process to enable the refugees know their permanent residence. According to them they preferred to continue living at Katumba. The government, however, is already having other plans for the area after the departure of the refugees. The government and the UNHCR should also close down some refugee camps since the situation in Burundi is back to normal.