REFUGEES IN TANZANIA

Tanzania, like many other African countries, is a place of asylum for refugees of diverse Origin who have fled from their homes on account of war, persecution, or famine. At the present time more than 200,000 refugees from Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire, Malawi and South Africa are making their homes in Tanzania, some on a permanent basis, while others retain hopes of returning one day to their countries of origin. Unlike some countries of the Far East and elsewhere, it is not the policy of the Tanzanian Government to herd the refugees into camps ‘, where they are maintained in idleness, or indeed to enforce their separation from the local population. Fortunately, Tanzania has land to spare on which the refugees are enabled to settle and maintain themselves, developing their own institutions and receiving initial help from external agencies.

One substantial group consists of Hutus, victims of a cruel civil war in Burundi in 1972. There are about 37,000 Hutus now settled in the Mishamo settlements in Mpanda District in an area the size of Zanzibar. Each family on arrival is given about 12 acres of land and rations are provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) until the refugees are able to support themselves. The UNHCR and other international bodies have provided resources and expert help to enable the settlers to dig wells, to build schools and other communal facilities and to improve their agricultural programme.

The refugees at Mishamo are settled in 16 villages organised on self-help lines. Each village has a substantial communal farm from which the produce is sold to the Tanzanian crop authorities and the proceeds are devoted to village development. The settlements are served by some 250 Tanzanian agricultural and health workers and other specialists. In 1~80 some 36,000 refugees from Rwanda were granted Tanzanian citizenship.

This approach to the refugee problem based on 1ine creation of self-supporting communities and integration in the national community is almost unique. There are of course other parts of Africa where overpopulation, or unfavourable natural conditions would make a solution on these lines difficult. Nevertheless, Tanzania’s policy takes account of the enduring nature of much of Africa’s refugee problem and the need to provide refugees with the chance to form self-sustaining and self-respecting communities within the national family.

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