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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

UNHCR says refugees have freedom of
choice to return to their home countries

DAR ES SALAAM (Xinhua) -- The UN refugees agency (UNHCR) said on Friday refugees have the freedom of choice to return to their home countries.

UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Volka Turk made the remarks at the end of his four-day visit to Tanzania.

His visit was aimed at discussing with the government and other partners on the protection challenges and solutions for more than 340,000 refugees and asylum seekers from neighboring countries living in Tanzania.

Turk said the right of refugees to return to their respective countries needed to be respected, emphasizing that the choice had to be based on informed consent.

“Refugees need to have a meaningful choice of whether they wish to return home based on the facts and realities on the ground,” he told a news conference in the the commercial capital Dar es Salaam.

He said there should not be any direct or indirect pressure put on refugees to choose to return to their respective countries.

When asked about the UNHCR’s stand regarding an agreement Tanzania and Burundi entered which proclaimed that Burundi was now safe for the return of refugees living in Tanzania, Turk said at the moment his office supported those who chose to return to their respective countries.

According to him, humanitarian funds for refugees had doubled during the past three years and needed to be tripled because of unwarranted situations from around the world, hence prevention was the most important thing.

UNHCR commended the government of Tanzania for its commitment to refugees’ protection and long-standing generosity towards those fleeing conflict and persecution.

The majority of refugees in Tanzania are from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, with 87 percent of them living in three camps in Kigoma region, in western Tanzania.

             

 

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