Tanzania, Burundi and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will hold tripartite talks on Thursday aimed at discussing the repatriation of Burundian refugees camped in western Tanzania, a statement said on Wednesday.
The statement by the Tanzania's Information Services said the one-day talks to be held in the east African nation's commercial capital Dar es Salaam said the talks will be chaired by the Minister for Home Affairs, Mwigulu Nchemba.
Last week, Nchemba urged UNHCR to start repatriating over 8,000 Burundian refugees who have volunteered to go back home within seven days. Speaking at Nduta refugee camp in the east African nation's western region of Kigoma, Nchemba said the UNHCR should immediately start organizing logistics for the safe return of the refugees.
"Failure to repatriate the refugees, I will consult with the Minister for Defense to release military trucks that will ferry the refugees to Burundi," said Nchemba. He said since the refugees volunteered to return to their tiny east African country last month, nothing was moving ahead.
On July 20, President John Magufuli called on the Burundian refugees now in the country to return home voluntarily and help build their country, asserting that now there was security in the tiny central African country.
Magufuli's remarks were in support of an earlier plea by Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza, who had called on his fellow countrymen to go back home and help rebuild their country because the "war is over." Magufuli also took a swipe at international humanitarian bodies for trying to convince refugees not to return to their home countries because of continued insecurity, just so they can continue receiving aid from donors.
The President also directed the Ministry of Home Affairs not to grant citizenship to any more Burundian refugees coming into Tanzania. In June this year, the UN refugee agency said Tanzania remained the largest host of Burundian refugees.
Tanzania is currently home to more than 315,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, mainly from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They are hosted in three refugee camps of Nyarugusu, Nduta, and Mtendeli, which face severe pressure.
On Sunday, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) appealed for 23.6 million U.S. dollars from now through to December this year to be able to continue meeting the food and nutritional needs of refugees in Tanzania.
The world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide said in a statement that it has been forced to reduce food rations for 320,000 refugees in Mtendeli, Nduta and Nyarugusu Camps in northwest Tanzania as a result of funding shortfalls.
WFP provides refugees, primarily from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with five food commodities of maize meal, pulses, super cereal, vegetable oil and salt.
"Due to funding shortages, all five commodities were reduced for the August distribution, reaching only 62 percent of the 2,100 required kilocalories which is the recommended daily calorie intake," said the statement. "Without an immediate response from donors, further ration cuts will be necessary as food stocks are simply running out," said WFP Tanzania Country Representative Michael Dunford.