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UN human rights experts* today called on the governments of Tanzania and Burundi to respect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers who have fled Burundi, deploring reports of enforced disappearances, torture, forced returns and repression.
Arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances have allegedly been carried out by the Tanzanian police and intelligence services in cooperation with the Burundian intelligence services, the experts said.
“In addition to the strict encampment policy imposed on them by the Government of Tanzania, Burundian refugees and asylum-seekers now live in fear of being abducted in the middle of the night by Tanzanian security forces and taken to an unknown location or being forcefully returned to Burundi,” the experts said.
Burundian political opponents have allegedly been tracked among the refugee and asylum-seeking population in Tanzania. The security situation in the camps seems to be extremely compromised amid reports that Burundian intelligence agents posing as refugees within the camps are identifying specific individuals who are later arrested by Tanzanian security forces. “The Government of Burundi must stop its repression against its citizens including those seeking international protection in Tanzania,” the experts said.
Refugees have confirmed being taken by Tanzanian police, subjected to enforced disappearance and torture before being refouled or coerced into signing for 'voluntary return'. Some have been interrogated about their presumed affiliation with armed groups and possession of weapons, about their activities in the camps, and in some cases were asked for money in order to be released.
“We are extremely alarmed by reports that some Burundian refugees have been killed after having been abducted by Tanzanian security forces,” the experts added.
Growing anxiety over safety has driven many to return to Burundi out of fear rather than a genuine willingness to return to their country of origin.
“It is extremely discouraging that since the Government announced in August 2020 that an investigation into the disappearances was underway no results have been made public yet,” the experts said. “The Government of Tanzania is aware of the situation and must take all necessary measures to immediately stop and remedy the violations.”