There are nearly 300,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Tanzania, 85 percent of whom live in refugee camps. Doctors Without Borders and other actors have warned about the potential spread of COVID-19 through these camps, especially in Nduta, where self-isolation and physical distancing is reportedly impossible.
According to UNHCR, as of 30 September 2020, there were 134,963 people at the Nyarugusu camp; 69,851 people at the Nduta camp; and 28,585 people at the Mtendeli camp. Most asylum seekers and refugees in Tanzania come from Burundi (71.7 percent) and from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (28.2 percent). In an effort to prevent the spread of infection, the refugee agency said that it had distributed 685 personal protective equipment in the camps; provisioned isolation facilities in the camps; established several thousand handwashing stations; and distributed soap to more than 60,000 households.
There is little information available about measures that may have been implemented to safeguard other noncitizen groups in Tanzania, including notably people in immigration enforcement procedures like detention or deportation. There do not appear to be any dedicated immigration detention centres in the country; undocumented migrants are held in police facilities and prison pending appearance in court or deportation.
Previously, reports revealed that an immigration-related detention centre was opened in 1996 in Mwisa. In 2011, the GDP noted reports indicating that this facility was used to hold asylum seekers or refugees suspected of being combatants as part of a collaboration between the government and UNHCR. However, according to the refugee agency, “There have been incidences where the government has transferred refugees to Mwisa without involving the UNHCR.”
In May, 3,717 prisoners were pardoned in an effort to relieve overcrowding in prisons as part of a COVID-19 response. Although Human Rights Watch welcomed the move, the group said that that Tanzania’s prison population had to be reduced even more, given the overcrowding of places of detention.
- OHCHA, “Tanzania: Assisting Burundian Refugees With COVID-19 Prevention,” 23 July 2020, https://reliefweb.int/report/united-republic-tanzania/tanzania-assisting-burundian-refugees-covid-19-prevention
- J. Ashly, “Tanzania: Burundian Refugees Fear a Hostile Tanzania,” All Africa, 10 September 2020, https://allafrica.com/stories/202009100710.html
- Doctors Without Borders, “Tanzania: Spread of COVID-19 Could Be Devastating to Refugees and Host Communities,” 10 April 2020, https://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/what-we-do/news-stories/news/tanzania-spread-covid-19-could-be-devastating-refugees-and-host
- Human Rights Watch, “Immediate Measures to Protect the Rights of Prison Detainees in Tanzania,” 20 May 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/05/20/immediate-measures-protect-rights-prison-detainees-tanzania
- Global Detention Project, “Tanzania Immigration Detention Profile,” May 2011, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/countries/africa/tanzania#country-report
- UNHCR, “TZ COVID-19 Preparedness and Response_26 September – 09 October 2020,” 12 October 2020, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/details/79594
- UNHCR, “North-West Tanzania Refugee Situation Population Dashboard (30 September 2020),” 9 October 2020, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/details/79596
- An MSF Health Official Reaches Out to Communities in Nduta Refugee Camp in Tanzania to Help Prevent the Spread of COVID-19, (MSF, “Tanzania: Spread of COVID-19 Could be Devastating to Refugees and Host Communities,” 10 April 2020, https://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/what-we-do/news-stories/news/tanzania-spread-covid-19-could-be-devastating-refugees-and-host)