U.S. To Accept 10,000 Burundian Refugees From Tanzania

US To Accept 10,000 Burundian Refugees From Tanzania
By Catherine Maddux
Voice of America
17 October 2006

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The United States says it will accept around 10,000 Burundian refugees from Tanzania, many of whom have lived outside their home country for more than three decades.

Some of the Burundians being considered for resettlement to the United States left Burundi in 1972 and have lived over the years in three separate countries – Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and finally, Tanzania.

State Department Deputy spokesman Tom Casey says the United States made the decision to accept the Burundian refugees following a request from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and in cooperation with the Tanzanian government.

He said, “This is a long-standing issue, obviously. In this particular case, we respond to requests that are made by the UNHCR [UN High Commissioner for Refugees] after their evaluation of these folks. While there is a long history on this and some resettlement and repatriation of individuals and other concerns back and forth, the fact of the matter is we only got this request for resettlement from them within the past year and so this is why we are acting on it now. ”

Every refugee being considered for resettlement will be interviewed by U.S. officials from the Department of Homeland Security to determine their eligibility for refugee status. Once in the U.S., they will be given the option of applying for citizenship.

Steve Corliss, the UNHCR representative in Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania, says the United States has a good program for resettling refugees.

“There is quite a large infrastructure for refugee resettlement in the United States. There are voluntary organizations; there are church organizations, community organizations and non-governmental organizations that work together with the U.S. Government to help refugees resettle. They actually settle in every corner of the United States, from New York to California and every place in between,” he said.

(Map of Burundi)

The resettlement process for the Burundian refugees is expected to take two years to complete. The UNHCR says the first group of Burundian refugees will likely arrive in the United States by early or mid-2007. The 10,000 chosen for resettlement are a tiny percentage of the estimated 170,000 Burundian refugees currently living in Tanzania.

Burundi long has been plagued by tensions between the majority Hutus and minority Tutsis, who dominated the government after independence from Belgium in 1962.

Ten years later, intense ethnic clashes erupted, during which the Tutsi army attacked and killed up to 150,000 Hutus. Hundreds of thousands of Burundian Hutus fled the violence.

The UNHCR has been helping to repatriate Burundians ever since the peace process began to take hold in that country following a decade of civil war. Some 230,000 Burundians have been returned home over the last four years .