Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Refugees

So, the week has been winding down a bit. We (the Asylum Access team) have almost wrapped up the RSDs and RRFs that we needed to get out this week. Though we are trying to get some more info from the refugees, along with COI (Country of Origin Information) in order to appeal one or two decisions already referred to Dar. We are also trying to hopefully avoid RSD denials on the other two pending referrals, but there are some major issues with the referrals that may not be possible to resolve. Though out of nine referrals, six have been approved so far. So, we are doing pretty well. : )

Unfortunately, we (my colleague Lisa and I) are still looking for permanent housing (we are currently staying with our project director and his wife), as Kasulu is filling up fast with ex-pats working on refugee issues here. There are only two remaining camps left open in Tanzania and one Burundian settlement. So, everyone has been moving here to facilitate the repatriation (sending refugees back to their home country), resettlement (getting them accepted to a third country - i.e. the U.S.), or in certain cases, Tanzanian naturalization, of the remaining refugees before the government tries to kick them all out next year. In Tanzania's defense, they had an extremely liberal refugee policy until about ten years ago or so. Also, I believe (feel free to fact check me here) they have taken in the largest number of refugees on the African continent to date. It still may leave refugees with few options but to return to places that they fled from in the first place, which is a rather petrifying thought - even when I have only read what these people have actually experienced first-hand.

In other news, we are trying to get on a convoy headed to Burundi to repatriate refugees there next week. We all are hoping to get on the convoy (just a day trip) to see what this process looks like, to see more of TZ by land, and hopefully to get our passports stamped so that we can avoid having to leave the country at the end of January, if our work permits don't come through before that time. Fingers crossed...

As for the weather, the rain continues to pelt the red earth and tin roofs here. It is loud and angry, with the thunder increasing and lightning flashing like cameras in an amphitheatre. It is amazing how much rain this earth can absorb, though it does make the roads treacherous for drivers. If the earth doesn't have enough time to fully dry on the surface before sunrise or sunset, the mud becomes like ice. Even the Land Cruisers operate at a snail's pace, if they can operate at all on the slick surface. Walking isn't so easy either, especially if you are wearing flip flops like a lot of the locals do here.

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