Thousands of Burundian refugees are to resettle in the US after spending close to three decades in Tanzania, says the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.
This “special group” of 13,000 refugees who left Burundi in 1972 were first displaced from Rwanda and the DR Congo.
They are to be allowed to resettle in the US as part of a massive scheme to reduce the number of displaced people in Western Tanzania, the UNHCR said.
Some 200,000 Burundians are currently living in UN refugee camps in Tanzania
“We identified this group through surveys and through registration, “ Stephen Corliss of the UNHCR in Tanzania told the BBC Focus on Africa programme.
He said the process was ongoing and that the first refugees were due to arrive in the United States towards the end of the first quarter of 2007.
“Most of the Burundian refugees in Tanzania came between 1993 and 1996,” Mr Corliss explained, “however, this particular group had actually lived outside the country for 34 years.”
“Many of them don’t have access to land, many of them have never seen Burundi, they were born outside of the country.
“In their case, it was considered that they would face particular reintegration problems if they went home,” he said.
Although it is often better to stay within the region, Mr Corliss explained that the offer to allow the refugees to stay in Tanzania was not made by the government.
“This is the solution that has been offered and of course it is completely voluntary,” he added.
Burundi is emerging from a civil war that has claimed some 300,000 lives.