The European Commission's humanitarian assistance in Tanzania is part of a regional programme intended to assist refugees, returnees and asylum seekers in the Great Lakes region. In 2010, Tanzania declared its wish to become a "refugee-free country" and thus its intention to close one of the two remaining refugee camps - Mtabila (hosting 38,000 Burundians) – by 31 December 2012.
After a verification exercise undertaken by the UNHCR, close to 3,000 Burundians were found to be in continued need of international protection under the refugee status. The 3,000 Burundians have been transferred to Nyarugusu camp which hosts around 65,000 refugees, mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Government of Tanzania together with UNHCR and IOM have embarked on a process of orderly return of around 35,000 Burundians who can no longer be hosted as refugees. This exercise is expected to culminate in the closure of Mtabila camp.
The Commission continues to help refugees in camps in north-western Tanzania by providing basic needs and protection services. Since 2002, the European Commission has provided more than €60 million for repatriation and resettlement interventions in north-western Tanzania and in neighbouring Burundi.
The European Commission is partly funding the orderly return of the Burundian refugees and also providing a return package comprising housing, start-up cash, food rations, household items such as mosquito nets and blankets, education assistance and free access to healthcare for a period of three months upon arrival in Burundi.
The Commission has supported the naturalisation process of the Burundian refugees who had been in Tanzania since the 1970s.