In the Name of Security: Forced Round-Ups of Refugees in Tanzania

Published: 1/Jul/1999
Source: Human Rights Watch

I fled Burundi in 1972 and came to Tanzania. I have lived in Rusaba B settlement in Tanzania since that time with no problems. My seven children were born in Tanzania. We get along with our neighbors. We contribute to the community. We helped to build the schools. We have given money for community development. We are thankful to the Tanzanians for giving us land and a life. I was able to cultivate the land and even produce oil for selling. I never thought that the Tanzanian government would do this to us. At about 8:00 a.m. on November 25, 1997, I saw an army vehicle. They were rounding up people and ordering them to hurry up, collect their things and get into the lorry. I was at home with one child. My other children had already gone to farm. I was too scared to disobey. I tried to tell the army people that I needed to find my children, but they said, “You go, your children will follow.” I got into the vehicle and was taken to Manyovu. I was crying because I did not know what would happen to my children. A hospital nurse was at Manyovu and she calmed me down. For two days, I had no contact with my children. Finally I was able to send a message to them. I am now held in the refugee camp, but my children are still outside. I would like them to come, but they have sent me a message that they have no money to come here. I am not allowed to leave the camp to find my children.

This Burundian woman is one of the tens of thousands of refugees rounded up by the Tanzanian army, separated from her family and stripped of her belongings before being confined to the refugee camps in western Tanzania. These refugees are caught up in the spill-over consequences of conflict in the Great Lakes region and are the unfortunate victims of the Tanzanian government’s indiscriminate response to insecurity on its country’s borders. While national and border security issues are clearly a priority for any government, Human Rights Watch believes that long-term security interests are best served through the implementation of mechanisms that uphold the rule of law. Ultimately, abusing the human rights of refugees and indiscriminately criminalizing all refugees without due process or individual accountability does not provide for the most effective or sustainable security policy. The blanket presumption that all refugees pose a security threat and can therefore be indiscriminately rounded up and confined in camps appears to be more a part of the pattern of deteriorating respect for refugee rights in Tanzania rather than a legitimate response to a valid security concern.

Download report on HRW website.

Themes: Deportation and Mass Expulsions, Mass Expulsions
Regions: Tanzania
Year: 1999