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Determination of Refugee Status in Tanzania

Refugee status is not an automatic status that a person is given upon his
entry into the country of refuge. In most country refugee status is
determined through specific procedures. Both, the 1951 UN Convention on
the status of Refugees, and the OAU Convention Governing Specific
Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, do not provide procedures for
refugee status determination.

These procedures are provided in national Refugee laws of individual


states. In Tanzania the procedures for determining refugee status are
provided under section 9 of the Refugee Act, 1998.

Under this provision, any person entering Tanzania, whether lawfully or


otherwise and who wishes to remain in Tanzania as a refugee within the
meaning of section 4 of the Refugee Act, is required, immediately and not
later than seven days after his entry, to present himself or report to the
nearest authorized officer and apply for recognition as a refugee1.

However, such person may report even after the laps of such time if he can
show a reasonable cause for delay. The phrase authorized officer is
defined under section 3 of the Act to include the Director of Refugee
Services, refugee officer, a settlement officer, and immigration officer.
Other authorities to which such person may present himself or report
include a village Executive Officer, and a justice of peace.

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 of the Act, is required before the expiration of his lawful stay,
to present himself or report and apply to an authorized officer for
recognition as a refugee2.

1 Section 9(1)
2 Section 9(2)
Further, in immigration perspectives, any person claiming to be a refugee
within the meaning of section 4 of the Act, shall not be declared a
prohibited immigrant, detained or penalized in any other way merely for
reasons of his illegal entry. But, any person who after entering Tanzania
or who is within Tanzania fails to present himself or report to the nearest
authorized officer, Village Executive Officer or justice of the peace, within
seven days shall be guilty of an offence3.

It is important to note that, if the authority to whom such person reports or


presents himself is not an authorized officer, the authority shall instruct the
person claiming to be a refugee to apply for recognition of his refugee
status, and refer him to an authorized officer.

Determination Procedures

In applying for refugee status the applicant shall 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 4.
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.

The authorized 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.

The authorized officer shall thereafter, as soon as possible transmit the


application forms and any statements, transcripts or evidence in support
thereof to the Director. The Director shall upon receipt of the application
submit the same before the Committee, and ensure that the Committee

3 Section .9(3)
4 Section 9(5)
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.

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 (asylum seeker) shall be informed of his right to
contact the UNHCR office in Tanzania.

The Committee shall have before it the application forms, statements,


transcripts and any additional information previously given by the
applicant to the authorized officer and the UNHCR representative in
Tanzania5. If deemed appropriate, the committee may 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.

Also the committee shall be at liberty to summon the applicant before it


whenever deemed necessary to clarify or answer questions pertaining to
his claim for refugee status and, or asylum. The applicant may be
permitted to bring along a competent interpreter if necessary. Further, if
deemed necessary, the committee may call any other person to appear
before it and may consider any other relevant or written submissions.

After the committees determination of the application, it shall make its


recommendations. The recommendations of the Committee shall be
referred to the Minister who without delay shall decide on the
recommendations and cause the applicant to be informed of his decision
through the Director.

The Director shall inform the UNHCR representative in Tanzania of the


Minister's decision without delay. Where refugee status has been denied,

5 Section 9(6)
the Director shall inform the asylum seeker of his right to petition for a
review to the Minister within seven days from the day he is informed of
such decision.6 The petition must be submitted in writing to the Minister
whose decision on the matter shall be final7.

If the decision of the Minister on the petition remain the same, such person
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 period8.

6 Section 9(7)
7 Section 9(8)
8 Section 9(9)