A total of 2,643 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have arrived in Kigoma in search of safety from the ongoing unrest in Kivu’s northern region.
According to the UNHCR, the latest emergency was triggered by renewed violent clashes between armed groups and government forces, with 300,000 people forced to flee their homes in North Kivu Province alone in February.
On March 5, Congolese nationals began entering Tanzania through the Kigoma region, while others arrived between September 2022 and January 2023 and sought refuge in the Nyarugusu Refugee Camp and its surrounding areas.
According to Nashon Makundi, Regional Coordinator, Department of Refugee Services, who spoke to the media on March 15, 2023, most people did not know how to apply for asylum in the country, and many believed that the country had closed its borders to refugees.
He stated that on March 10, 2023, the number of refugees entering Tanzania ranged between 300 and 600, with a total of 2,643 arriving by March 14.
Sudi Mwakibasi, Director of Refugee Services, stated that Tanzania signed the African Union Agreement in 1969, which deals with refugee issues unique to African countries.
However, Tanzania has the Refugee Act of 1998, which allows them to implement it while the process of receiving, identifying, and registering asylum seekers continues.
According to him, the majority of the refugees are women and children, and the process of receiving and registering them is ongoing for 24 hours to ensure that they are all identified and registered in the camp.
Kigoma region commissioner Tobias Andengenye, for his part, has asked residents to follow the law, which prohibits them from receiving people who enter the country illegally.
Some of the refugees stated that the increase in attacks by M23, who are clashing with government forces, has forced them to flee their country, resulting in the deaths of several civilians in North and South Kivu.
Jack Shindano, an asylum seeker from Goma, said he fled from the rebel group M23, which forced him to join the group and killed his wife and child when he refused.