“It’s difficult to estimate exactly the number of Burundians already expelled from Tanzania, but there are at least 20,000 over the past month and probably between 20,000 and 30,000,” Catherine Huck of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Thursday.
Nearly one million Burundians crossed into Tanzania when a deadly civil war broke out in their country in 1993. Most of the refugees returned to Burundi when the war ended in 2006, but some of them stayed abroad.
The Tanzanian government considers the Burundian refugees as illegal immigrants and wants them to get out of Tanzania.
“The Burundian government must organize convoys to bring the expelled persons back to their villages. The needs are enormous, and the international community must get involved,” the UNHCR official said.
Refugees from Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have also flooded Tanzania due to escalating tensions across Africa’s Great Lakes region.
In eastern Congo, the government troops and UN peacekeepers have been fighting for more than a year to crush a rebellion by March 23 movement (M23) fighters.
Nearly three million Congolese have fled their homes because of the violence. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but about 500,000 have crossed into neighboring countries.