Burundian Refugees in Tanzania: "I Cried and Ran for My Life, Together with My Children"

In the transit center in Lumasi, refugees wait until they are further relocated to one of the camps. Here they find shelter and food.
Ikram N'gadi
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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.

Read More: A Year of Turmoil for Burundian Refugees in Tanzania

In the Migongo Reception center two staff members are taking care of the newly arriving refugees from Burundi. From here the refugees are relocated to Nduta refugee camp.
Ikram N'gadi
In the reception center of Kilelema, Ester, a 30-year old woman, who fled from Bujumbura 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 on 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 neighbours 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.”
Ikram N'gadi
In the reception center of Kilelema, Ester, a 30-year old woman, who fled from Bujumbura 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 on 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 neighbours 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.”
Ikram N'gadi
"It happened during the December attacks”, says Thalia, a 35-year old women 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. "
Ikram N'gadi
Constance, a 22-year old woman from Kaniosha, Burundi lost her husband and child, who have been killed, while she has been 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 strangulated 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. "
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”. The very same building was already used as a collection point in the 1990’s for the refugees arriving from DR Congo & Burundi. From here the refugees are collected and relocated to the camps.
Ikram N'gadi
Edwin, the 45-year old village chief of Erungushu is managing the collection point in his village, while the community is sharing their food with the refugees.
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.”
Ikram N'gadi
Before proceeding to the reception center in Murusagamba the refugees are registered at the entrance of the village. The nearby border is often crossed for trade.
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.
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 young and enthusiastic humanitarian workers.
Ikram N'gadi