Stop enticing Burundi refugees, JPM warns humanitarian bodies

23Jul 2017
The Guardian Reporter
Guardian On Sunday
Stop enticing Burundi refugees, JPM warns humanitarian bodies

PRESIDENT John Magufuli has warned donor-funded organisations providing humanitarian services to refugees to stop persuading Burundian nationals to migrate to Tanzania in order for them to gain financial support from international donors.

The president said not all asylum seekers from Burundi were refugees because some were being enticed by donor-funded organisations with promises of being provided with cash or being sent to live in foreign lands such as Europe and Canada.

“There is no more civil war in Burundi, yet refugees migrate to Kigoma every day,” the president wondered.

He said the government was aware of some organizations which persuaded people to emigrate from their country for their own personal gain and survival.

“They ask refuges to come here so that they can continue to get financial support from international donors,” the president said.
He insisted that he would be forced to take stringent measures, including expulsion, against any organization or official proved to be luring refugees into the country.

President Magufuli was addressing a public rally at Tanganyika Stadium in Kigoma town while laying a foundation stone for a major water project which is being implemented by the government with financial support from the European Union (EU) and the German Development Bank.

The financiers have provided Sh164trn for water projects in Lindi, Manyara, Mara and Kigoma regions. The project in Kigoma region will cost Sh42bn.

Efforts by The Guardian to get comments from some international organizations providing humanitarian aid to refugees, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP) proved futile yesterday.

“…the bad thing is that these international organizations working for refugees are not willing to assist the government in providing social services, such as construction of schools and hospitals…the only thing they do is to give refugees 20,000/- per month,” the president asserted.

Magufuli was concerned that some districts in Kigoma region, including Kasulu, were full of refugees, hence becomes difficult for the government to provide social services. He said it was high time for Burundian refugees in the country went back home to rebuild their economy.

“We can offer better social services to our people if the refugees have gone,” he said, appealing to refugees to organize themselves for their return to Burundi.

He said during his recent meeting with Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza they both urged refugees sheltering in Tanzania to return home. He said Tanzania could not continue to be home for refugees for over 50 years.

“There is peace in Burundi…I am told some of you have left the country due to economic hardship. You must go back and fight to improve your livelihood while in Burundi,” said Magufuli.

There are currently nearly 350,000 Burundian refugees in Tanzania.

Earlier, Water Minister Gerson Lwenge assured the president that construction of the water project would be completed by November 31, this year. He said the project was delayed by the contractor as its implementation began in 2013.

“These project will ensure reliable water provision to all the people in Kigoma…so far 71 per cent of the project has been completed,” the minister.

Works, Transport and Communication Minister Prof Makame Mbarawa, for his part, said the government planned to unlock Kigoma region economically.

He said to ensure smooth transport of people and goods, efforts had now been directed to improving infrastructures. He said the ministry had already allocated Sh8bn for the maintenance of MV Liemba, which provides service on Lake Tanganyika.

Prof Mbarawa noted that in the few coming months the national flag bearer - Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL) - would start direct flights to the Burundi capital, Bujumbura, via Kigoma.

According to the minister, Kigoma port had now been improved, with its cargo handling capacity increasing to 120,000 tonnes in 2016/2017 from 63,000 tonnes in 2012/2013.

On Friday, when addressing a rally at Kakonko, Magufuli threatened to shut down foreign gold mining companies if proposed negotiations aimed at ending long-standing disputes over royalties between his government and the firms continued to be delayed.

President Magufuli said Tanzania has been losing trillions of shillings in gold and copper concentrates which mining companies were taking abroad for smelting.

“The current war against economic crime is aimed at benefiting poor citizens who have had their minerals stolen by a few wealthy people in the name of investors,” he said.

He said if the country were getting its appropriate royalties since the mining companies started their operations, Tanzanians would now be enjoying better social services, with improved infrastructure across the country.