Friday, October 20, 2006

10,000 refugees from Burundi coming to U.S.

When is enough, enough? Would it be politically incorrect to place a
red flashing neon
NO VACANCY sign on the Statue of Liberty?

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The United States plans to take in about 10,000 Burundian refugees -- many of whom fled their landlocked Central African nation as far back as 1972 -- from Tanzania, the U.S. State Department said on Tuesday.

"We are planning to offer permanent resettlement to a group of Burundian refugees who've been in western camps in Tanzania," State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters, saying an estimated 10,000 people would be offered residence.

Burundi has been plagued by civil strife since it achieved independence from Belgium in 1962. Thousands of Burundians from the Hutu majority fled ethnic massacres by the powerful Tutsi minority in 1972.

Hundreds of thousands more Burundians fled to neighboring countries during a 12-year civil war that killed roughly 300,000 people before it ended last year with a U.N.-backed peace agreement. (Watch to see what life is like for people on the run -- 1:00)

Casey said the United States agreed to taken in the refugees at the request of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Washington received the request within the past year, he said.

A UNHCR spokesman said the agency seeks to help refugees return to their original country or to integrate into the communities where they have fled. If neither is possible, it looks to resettle them in third countries.

"This group felt that they were unable or unwilling to return," said UNHCR spokesman Tim Irwin. Local integration also was not an option, he said, leading to the decision to seek permanent homes for them elsewhere.

He said the group had become known as the 1972 Burundians -- referring to the year they left the country -- and that many were born in Tanzania and had no direct experience of Burundi.

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