Refugee status determination in Tanzania, including acceptance rates and source countries [TZA35313.E]

Chapter 9 of the Tanzanian 1998 Refugees Act provides the following information on the refugee determination process in Tanzania:

9.Determination of status
(1) Any person entering or who is within Tanzania, whether lawfully or otherwise and who wishes to remain in Tanzania as a refugee within the meaning of section 4 shall immediately and not later than seven days after entry, unless he can show reasonable cause for delay, present himself or report to the nearest authorised officer, village Executive Officer, or a justice of peace and apply for recognition as a refugee.
(2) In the case of a person who is lawfully in Tanzania and is subsequently unable to return to his country of origin for the reasons within the meaning of section 4 he shall, prior to the expiration of his lawful stay, present himself or report and apply to an authorised officer for recognition as refugee in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
(3) Without prejudice to the provision of this section no person claiming to be a refugee within the meaning of section 4 shall merely for reasons of his illegal entry be declared a prohibited immigrant, detained or penalized in any other way save that any person who after entering Tanzania or who is within Tanzania fails to comply with subsection (1) of this section shall be guilty of an offence.
(4) If the authority to whom the person reports or represents himself in accordance with sub-section (1) of this section is not an authorised officer he shall instruct the person claiming to be a refugee to apply for recognition of his refugee status and refer him to an authorised officer.
(5) In applying for refugee status the applicant shall-
(a) immediately fill in a prescribed application form and the application shall be registered by an authorized officer within the local area of his point of entry into Tanzania. In addition to the application form, he shall be entitled to make any statement and submit evidence in support of his claim, if he so wishes;
(b) the authorised officer shall interview the applicant and reduce the interview into writing. The transcript shall be read to the applicant who may make corrections before it is signed by both the interviewing officer and the applicant. If the applicant does not wish to sign the transcript the reasons for declining shall be indicated;
(c) the authorised officer shall as soon as possible transmit the application forms and any statements, transcripts or evidence in support thereof to the Director;
(d) the Director shall upon receipt of the application submit the same before the Committee, ensure that the Committee convenes and considers the application within a period of sixty days from the time of making application, provided that the Director for reasonable cause may extend the period of sixty days;
(e) the office of the Director shall inform the UNHCR Representative in Tanzania of the presence in Tanzania of any person claiming to be a refugee and such person shall be informed of his right to contact the UNHCR office in Tanzania.
(6)The Committee shall-
(a) have before it application forms, statements, transcripts and any additional information previously given by the applicant to the authorised officer and the UNHCR representative in Tanzania;
(b) if deemed appropriate investigate and seek all relevant information from appropriate sources within and outside the country, provided that the authorities of country of origin shall not be contacted by the Committee;
(c) be at liberty to summon the applicant before it whenever deemed necessary to clarify or answer questions pertaining his claim for refugee status and, or asylum.
(d) if deemed necessary call any other person to appear before it and may consider any other relevant or written submissions;
(e) the recommendations of the Committee shall be referred to the Minister who without delay shall decide on the recommendations and shall cause the applicant to be informed of his decision through the Director;
(f) the Director shall inform the UNHCR representative in Tanzania of the Minister's decision without delay;
(g) where refugee status has been denied the Director shall inform the asylum seeker of his right to petition for a review to the Minister within seven days in accordance with sub-section (7) of this section;
(h) in dealing with application under this section the asylum seeker may be permitted to bring along a competent interpreter if necessary.
(7) Any person dissatisfied by the decision of the Minister recognising any person or group or category of persons as refugees or rescinding or withdrawing the refugee status under this section, may petition for a review to the Minister within seven days from the day he is informed of such decision.
(8) Any petition under sub-section (7) of this section shall be submitted in writing to the Minister whose decision on the matter shall be final.
(9) Any person whose application for refugee status and asylum has been rejected in accordance with this section, shall be deemed to be an illegal immigrant and shall be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of The Immigration Act, 1995 unless such person has been accorded a mandate refugee status by UNHCR pending his resettlement or relocation by UNHCR to another country within a specified period.

Xinhua specified in a report released on 26 August 1999 that: "The National Eligibility Committee is the Tanzanian body that is responsible for determination of refugee status in the country. It is composed of members from the Office of the President, Prime Minister's Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, as well as police and immigration forces."

For more information on the refugee determination process, please consult the Tanzanian 1998 Refugees Act in the 1999 version of REFWORLD available at Regional Documentation Centres.

For information on the situation of the refugees in Tanzania, please consult the Human Rights Watch report In the Name of Security, Forced Round-ups of Refugees in Tanzania. The report states the following concerning the Tanzanian 1998 Refugees Act:

In December 1998, the National Assembly of Tanzania passed a new refugee law, the 1998 Refugees Act, which superseded the 1965 Refugee Control Act. Copies of the new law have been difficult to obtain. Moreover, the process through which the law was drafted was flawed. For example, Article 35(2) of the 1951 U.N. Convention relating to the Status of Refugees obliges states to provide UNHCR with "information and statistical data requested concerning: (a) the condition of refugees, (b) the implementation of this Convention, and ( c) laws, regulations and decrees which are, or may hereafter be, in force relating to refugees." There was no such consultation in the drafting of the December 1998 law. Nor were Tanzanian humanitarian groups consulted, such that Tanzanian church leaders raised public protests to highlight the possible new restrictions in the law. Absent any opportunity for refugee-interested organizations to contribute to the draft law, a number of provisions were included that could be detrimental to refugee protection, including greater powers to camp commanders, the lack of adequate due process protections in the appeals process for status determination interviews, and greater powers devolved to local authorities (July 1999).

According to The Guardian, as of December 1999, "the UNHCR was providing protection and assistance to some 415,000 refugees from Burundi (285,000), DRC (118,000), Rwanda (7,600) and Somalia (4,200) (28 Feb. 2000).

On 26 August 1999, Xinhua reported that, quoting a UNHCR report, "the Tanzanian government has granted refugee status to 5,650 Rwandan asylum seekers...most of these Rwandans were registered as asylum seekers last year and acquired refugee status after Tanzanian National Elegibility Committee (NEC) scrutinized their identities." Statistical information on acceptance rates for other countries of origin could not be found.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


The Guardian [Dar-es-Salaam, in English]. 25 February 2000. "Government Official Comments on Problems Concerning Refugees." (BBC Summary 28 Feb. 2000/NEXIS)

Human Rights Watch (HRW). July 1999. Vol. 11, No.4. Tanzania: In the Name of Security, Forced Round-ups of Refugees in Tanzania. [Accessed 24 Aug. 2000]

United Republic of Tanzania. Refugees Act: Chapter 9. 1998. (REFWORLD July 1999)

Xinhua. 26 August 1999. "5,650 Rwandans Granted Refugee Status in Tanzania." (NEXIS)