Tanzanian authorities threaten refugees who leave camp with loss of status over COVID-19 concerns

Burundian refugees walking to Nduta refugee camp in Kigoma, northwest Tanzania, on October 7, 2015. There has been a more than normal spike in Burundian refugee arrivals in Uganda, UNHCR says. PHOTO | OXFAM | AFP
Burundian refugees walk to Nduta refugee camp in Kigoma, northwest Tanzania, on October 7, 2015. PHOTO | OXFAM | AFP

Tanzania’s Kigoma regional authorities on Wednesday warned refugees sheltered in camps in the region to stop moving outside their camp sites as a protective measure against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Emmanuel Maganga, Kigoma regional commissioner, warned that refugees wandering outside their camps will lose their refugee status and be charged in court.

“Since the region is sheltering a good number of refugees from neighboring countries, letting them to wander outside their camps will frustrate measures aimed at controlling the spread of the viral disease,” Maganga told a meeting that discussed the best ways of protecting the western region against the COVID-19 threat.

Kigoma region, located on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, shelters refugees from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Currently there are 137,000 refugees in Nyarugusu camp, 75,000 refugees in Nduta camp and 32,000 refugees in Mtendeli camp, said Maganga, a retired Brigade General from Tanzania’s People’s Defense Forces.

Maganga directed police to reinforce security along Kigoma region’s borders with Burundi and the DR Congo.