The repatriation of about 20,000 Rwandans living illegally in Tanzania will be a gradual and voluntary process, Maj Tumainiel Kiwelo, the commissioner for Kagera Region, where the Rwandans are living, told IRIN on Monday.
Roughly 600 Rwandans had applied to remain in Tanzania as residents, while the rest had not done so, because they wanted to go back, he said.
"There are some that have applied, and the process is ongoing to legalise their stay," he said. "Those that have not applied to stay cannot be forced to go. But they will move slowly and are not going to be pushed. They will be going to the crossing-points by themselves."
Kiwelo said the Rwandans had been in Tanzania since the 1994 genocide, and even before, but they had not legalised their stay. While there was no deadline for them to leave, Kiwelo said the repatriation was in line with an agreement signed between the Tanzanian and Rwandan governments in April.
"We are working on the arrangements for them to move their possessions out of Tanzania. We will be assisting them to go home and they will be met at the border by Rwandan authorities to ensure a smooth repatriation," he said.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Tanzania said that, as far as they knew, the Rwandans had not applied for refugee status, and were therefore of no concern to UNHCR.
All remaining Rwandan refugees who had been living in camps in western Tanzania were repatriated earlier this year and, analysts say, the government is planning to declare the Rwandan refugee caseload closed.
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