Tanzania has said it will offer citizenship to more Burundi refugees who have been in the country for more than 45 years.
Tanzania has already naturalised more than 162,000 Burundian refugees who fled their country in 1972.
Two weeks ago, the UNHCR held talks with the Tanzanian government and agreed that Burundian refugees should return home voluntarily, and that those who had stayed in the country for more than 45 years could be granted citizenship.
Home Affairs Minister Mwigulu Nchemba and UNHCR assistant high commissioner for protection Volker Türk committed to the voluntary return by refugees by the end of August.
“The government of Tanzania in collaboration with UNHCR is in the final stages of the naturalisation process for the 1972 Burundi refugees,” said UNHRC spokesperson Teresa Ongaro in a statement to The EastAfrican.
According to the latest statistics from the UNHCR, Tanzania hosts the most Burundian refugees in the region, at 243,565 Burundians and asylum seekers.
Last month, Tanzania President John Magufuli appealed for Burundi refugees to voluntarily return home.
“I urge our good neighbours, Burundi refugees, to start thinking of going back home voluntarily and rebuild their country’s economy. That would in turn foster good relations between our two countries,” said President Magufuli after holding talks with Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza in Ngara District in Kagera region.
Consequently, more than 5,000 Burundian refugees stationed in different camps in Kigoma said they were willing to return home: 150,000 refugees have already returned.
“Just as everyone has a right to flee, everyone has a right to return. It’s however essential that it is their free choice to return and that they understand clearly the situation in the place they return to,” Mr Turk said.