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November 29, 2011

No Place Called Home- Asylum Access Launches a Report on Urban Refugees in Dar es Salaam

by Asylum Access

Asylum Access has just released a new report, No Place Called Home, presenting the findings of a 2010 survey of urban refugees living in Dar es Salaam. The aim of the study  is to establish the existence of an urban population in Dar es Salaam with genuine claims to refugee status – and thus rights under Tanzanian and international law. In addition, Asylum Access sought to better understand the protection needs of this population, of which no official estimation exists.

Urban refugees living in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania are a vulnerable population living on the fringes of society who are unable to assert their fundamental human rights due to fear, lack of trust of government authorities, and difficulties seeking legal status through formal channels. Following the government’s closure of refugee camps and their declared policy of becoming a “refugee-free country” in 2008, new refugees in Tanzania find themselves drawn to urban centers for better livelihood prospects. Once there, they are reluctant to seek help due to Tanzania’s 1998 Refugees Act, which made it an offence to live outside camps without a permit.

The survey of 122 adult refugees found that only 25% of participants had visited the UNHCR office or the Ministry of Home Affairs, the department dedicated to refugee issues, to seek help due to fears of arrest and deportation. 41% of participants had previously lived in a refugee camp, where refugees are required to live unless they had a permit to live outside the camp. Of these, 13% left due to security concerns, others because of generalized insecurity, outbreak of diseases, insufficient support and services, poverty and lack of employment.

Asylum Access also found that 1 in 5 employers who knew of refugees’ undocumented status used this knowledge to exploit them by withholding wages and threatening to call the police or immigration authorities. For refugees with children, only 1 in 4 were able to send at least one child to school despite primary education being free for all in theory. Prohibitive miscellaneous costs, the inability to bribe school staff not to report their children to immigration authorities and the fear of bullying and discrimination were the key barriers to sending their children to school.

Based on this survey, Asylum Access has compiled a list of recommendations for the government of Tanzania, other countries and the UNHCR, including ensuring full implementation of the Tanzanian Refugees Act which enables refugees to seek legal status, to expand the protection space available to refugees, and to engage in open dialogue about refugee hosting mechanisms with international organizations. Through this report, Asylum Access hopes to better advocate Tanzanian authorities for the greater implementation of refugee rights for the urban refugee population in Tanzania.

Asylum Access’s No Place Called Home report is available in PDF format at http://tinyurl.com/csyvkc8 and in print upon request.

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