Tens of thousands of residents of northwestern Tanzania who speak the Kinyarwanda language have been deported to neighbouring Rwanda in the past nine months after they allegedly refused to acquire resident permits or become naturalised Tanzanians, officials said.
Humanitarian agencies estimate that 60,000 of the deportees are living in transit camps in the Kirehe, Ngoma and Nasho areas of eastern Rwanda.
Rwandan officials have condemned the expulsions, but Tanzanian authorities insist that those deported were illegal immigrants, some of whom have lived in Tanzania since the early 1960s. Both countries have formed a Joint Technical Team (JTT) to try to resolve the issue.
"They are the ones who came to Tanzania and settled in villages on their own, not those in refugee camps who have refugee status," said Enos Mfuru, the commissioner of the Kagera region and a member of the JTT that met in the Rwandan capital on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"These people had the option of either naturalisation or acquisition of resident permits as provided for under Tanzanian law, but they don't want to do either," he said. He said 17,000 of the people said to be Rwandans are still in Tanzania and they had until 21 July 2007 to leave.
Rwanda's Foreign Minister Charles Murigande said after the JTT meeting that Rwanda had no alternative but to receive the expelled people.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was working with Rwanda's Disaster Management Task Force and other local and international aid agencies to provide some help to the deportees.
In August last year, then Tanzanian Home Affairs Minister, John Chiligati, said there were tens of thousands of immigrants from neighbouring countries who had settled in Tanzania illegally who had the option of either legalising their status or they would face expulsion. He spoke after 600 Burundians were evicted from villages in northern Tanzania and deported.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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