Press release on the forced evictions of Burundian refugees by Tanzanian authorities


The Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Internally Displaced Persons and Migrants in Africa (the Special Rapporteur) of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, Honorable Commissioner Maya Sahli-Fadel, would like to express concern about the situation of Burundian refugees in the United Republic of Tanzania, in violation of fundamental rights such as access to asylum and the principle of non-refoulement.

In the previous months the Special Rapporteur has received numerous reports of intimidation of Burundian refugees to force them to leave the country. Other reports include threats of expulsion by the Tanzanian government, the closure and destruction of markets in the camps, restrictions on their business activities, access to services and freedom of movement. There are also reported cases of enforced disappearances in some refugee camps that are extremely worrying and constitute attacks on the integrity of persons and compromise the security of the camps and their surroundings.

The Special Rapporteur would like to recall that the right to asylum, as enshrined in the AU Convention Governing Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa ( the AU Refugees Convention) requires States Parties to undertake to do everything in their power, within the framework of their respective legislations, to receive refugees, and to ensure the settlement of those among them who, for serious reasons, are unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin or the country of which they are nationals (Art 2(1)). The granting of asylum to refugees constitutes a peaceful and humanitarian act and cannot be considered by any State as an act of an unfriendly nature (Art 2(2)). Thus, no refugee may be subjected by a State Party to measures such as refusal of admission at the border, refoulement or expulsion which would force him or her to return to or remain in a territory where his or her life, physical integrity or freedom would be threatened (Art 2(3)).

Furthermore, the provisions of Article 2(4) of the Refugee Convention which provides that where a State Party experiences difficulties in continuing to grant asylum to refugees, that State may appeal to other States Parties, both directly and through the African Union; and other States, in a spirit of African solidarity and international cooperation, shall take appropriate measures to alleviate the burden on the State granting asylum which may represent an alternative to expulsions and other discriminatory acts against refugees.

The Special Rapporteur denounces the increasing pressure on Burundian refugees by the Tanzanian authorities to provoke forced departures and/or expulsions.

The Special Rapporteur calls upon the Tanzanian authorities to put an end to any intimidation aimed at achieving this goal.

The Special Rapporteur further calls upon the Government to cooperate fully with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees with regard to the care of Burundian refugees as well as their voluntary return in accordance with the provisions of articles 5 (1) which stipulates that the essentially voluntary nature of repatriation must be respected in all cases and no refugee may be repatriated against his or her will and 8 of the AU Refugee Convention and to comply with the letter and spirit of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.


Banjul 15 December 2020