13,000 Burundian refugees prepare for US citizenship

Dar es Salaam- Tanzania (PANA) -- About 13,000 Burundian refugees are on the verge of being airlifted to the U.
S.
to receive citizenship, while more than 500,000 others will be flown to Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo in an unprecedented operation undertaken by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR in East Africa, to relieve Tanzania of a burgeoning alien population, the government announced here Saturday.
Tanzanian's minister for home affairs, John Chiligati said the U.
S.
has agreed to grant citizenship to 13,000 Burundians selected from various refugee camps in the western Tanzania, while the UNHCR had embarked on a phased repatriation of 506,914 refugees to Burundi, Rwanda and the DR Congo, that will end next year.
Chiligati told reporters that UNHCR and the government were about to finalise the modalities of facilitating the repatriation of refugees following restoration of peace and stability in Rwanda and Burundi after a decade-long bloodbath and mayhem.
"The government, UNHCR and Burundi officials will meet on November 24 to work the modalities of repatriating 298,457 (refugees) not in camps and 208,457 others currently in residential camps," he said.
the minister said the refugees to be transferred to the US, would be drawn from various camps and those selected for airlifting had already been identified and were undergoing special training to prepare them for imminent cultural shock upon their translocation.
"The US will airlift between 10,000-13,000 Burundian refugees to America.
These are refugees who are reluctant to return home for fear of persecution and other reasons known to themselves," Chiligati said.
The 13,000 Burundian refugees will be the third large batch of African refugees to be assisted to immigrate to the U.
S.
in a decade.
In 2001, about 8,000 war orphans, nicknamed the Sudanese lost boys" were airlifted from the camps in northern Kenya to become US citizens.
The Sudanese boys had been rescued and were taken to refugee camps in Kenya by Christian missionaries after trekking hundreds to escape fighting at home.
Another group of 12,500 refugees tagged Somali Bantus who were fleeing centuries of persecution under the Somali ruling class followed the first batch.
The minority Somali Bantu ethnic group, who were living in slavery conditions before civil war broke out in 1991, had also moved to refugee camps in northern Kenya, where they again suffered discrimination and racial abuse by fellow asylum seekers.
Chiligati said a recent meeting at the UNHCR headquarters in Geneva agreed that Burundi was secure for the refugees' return.
The repatriation of Burundian, Rwandan and DRC refugees was suspended between January and June this year following an acute food shortage in the central African states, which again triggered a fresh wave of "food refugees" flocking camps in search of succour.
Burundi and DRC were also preparing to hold democratic elections and there had been fears that the outcome would plunge the country into renewed ethnic animosities.
UNHCR estimates that at least 500,000 refugees are still in Tanzanian camps at present, down from over two million in 2002.
The refugees are accused of soaring insecurity in western Tanzania, where armed crime is common.

14 october 2006 10:38:00




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