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Tanzania: One year of turmoil for Burundian refugees

31 May 2016

In the Migongo Reception Center, two staff members take care of newly arriving refugees from Burundi. From here the refugees are relocated to Nduta Refugee Camp. Photo: Ikram N'gadi

In Kilelema Reception Center, some Burundian refugees arrive without anything, while others have some money left. They are exhausted, sometimes injured. Photo: Ikram N'gadi

In the reception center of Kilelema, Ester, a 30-year-old woman who fled from Bujumbura, Burundi, to Tanzania shares her story: "We were at home when some armed group raided our place. They executed my husband. I cried and ran for my life, together with my children. They shot me in the leg and I lost my children while in flight. Only one of them I could find later. Every other family member died. In hospital I spent five months to let the doctors treat my wound before I decided to leave Burundi for good. My family was killed, my house was destroyed, all my neighbors fled. Along the journey we were facing many problems and were mainly hiding to avoid getting hurt. I could hardly walk. We arrived yesterday in Kilelema, without anything, as everything we had on us was stolen. Photo: Ikram N'gadi

"It happened during the December attacks," says Thalia, a 35-year-old woman from Mosahaga, Burundi, in the Kilelema Reception Center. "They broke down the door, entered, and searched the house. They beat us, so we ran away into the mountains. My husband and I got separated during our flight and still have not found each other again. I have no news of him. It was a long trip to get here and now I would like to find a place in the camp to save my life." Photo: Ikram N'gadi

Constance, a 22-year-old woman from Kaniosha, Burundi, lost her husband and child, who was killed while she was beaten, strangled, and left for dead. She just arrived in Manyovu. "I cannot walk anymore. My legs hurt, and I have pain in my head. Militias came to my house. They killed my husband and my son in front of me. I have been beaten up everywhere. They strangled me and left me on the floor thinking I was dead also. But I wasn’t dead, I was unconscious. The next day I managed to find enough strength to stand up and escape. I will never go back to Burundi." Photo: Ikram N'gadi

In Erungushu, a strategically important location halfway between the Burundian border and Nyarugusu Camp, the local community has spontaneously initiated a "Collection point." From here refugees are collected and relocated to Tanzanian camps. Photo: Ikram N'gadi

Edwin, the 45-year-old village chief of Erungushu, manages the collection point in his village. The local community shares their food with the refugees. Photo: Ikram N'gadi

Khadija, a 40-year-old woman from Tanzania, is in charge of this reception center in Murusagamba. "People run away from war in Burundi and come here anytime. They are tired, thirsty, and hungry. When there is nothing in the center, I go home and get some food from my house for them. We feel sorry for them. When the refugees arrive in Tanzania without anything, our people give them food and money." Photo: Ikram N'gadi

Before proceeding to the reception center in Murusagamba, the refugees are registered at the entrance to the village. The nearby border is often crossed for trade. Photo: Ikram N'gadi

The reception center in Bukarama was opened to respond to the refugee influx from Burundi. Some arrive by bike or motorbike if they have money. If not, they arrive by foot. Photo: Ikram N'gadi

In Kabanga, a border entry point in Tanzania, the refugees usually don’t spend more than 24 hours in the reception center before they are relocated to the transit center in Lumasi. Jessica, 22 years old, and Balthazar, 31 years old, are enthusiastic humanitarian workers. Photo: Ikram N'gadi

More than one year after the first influx of refugees began, some 1,000 people fleeing political unrest in Burundi continue to cross the border each week to Tanzania.

They join thousands of others living in overcrowded and ever-expanding refugee camps. Two of the three existing sites - Nyarugusu and Nduta - have already swelled to capacity. A third camp, Mtendeli, is now receiving refugees transferred from the overcrowded Nyarugusu camp, as well as newly arrived refugees from the border areas. There are now approximately 140,000 Burundians living in Tanzania.