JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – United Nations teams have received disturbing reports that Tanzania has rejected more than 1,000 people seeking refuge from an alleged Islamic State attack in a city in northern Mozambique, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said on Tuesday.
The March 24 attack on the city of Palma, coupled with $ 60 billion worth of gas developments, sent city dwellers dispersing in all directions, with some fleeing into dense forest while others escaped by boat.
Some headed north toward Tanzania, aid workers said.
UNHCR teams … have received disturbing reports from displaced populations that more than 1,000 people fleeing Mozambique trying to enter Tanzania were not allowed to cross the border to seek asylum, his statement said.
He called on Mozambique’s neighbors to provide access for those seeking protection.
UNHCR had earlier told Reuters there was no access to the border or the affected areas, without giving a reason. Two other aid workers said Tanzania had refused entry to their organizations, while the Mozambican side of the border was considered too dangerous.
Tanzanian national and local officials either did not respond to Reuters calls or declined to comment.
Last week a boat with 45 fleeing Mozambicans docked in Tanzania, where a local community leader said they had been given food and shelter.
Hundreds more, meanwhile, had crossed into Tanzania by land, only to be sent later via another border post, according to one aid worker and a security consultant working with a number of humanitarian agencies.
A Palma resident, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, said he was allowed to enter Tanzania but then headed for six hours and surrendered to the Mozambican army in the border village of Negomano. There was no food or shelter there, he said, so he continued on to the district capital.
Armindo Ngunga, secretary of state for Cabo Delgado’s northernmost province of Mozambique, said many people who had fled to Tanzania were returning through Negomano and the authorities would take care of them. He did not give numbers.
The military said Sunday that Palma was now completely safe, while local media visiting the city said some citizens had begun to return.
The full extent of the casualties and displacement from the attack remains unclear.
Reporting by Emma Rumney in Johannesburg, David Lewis in Nairobi, Giulia Paravicini in Addis Ababa and Manuel Mucari in Maputo; Additional reporting by Matthieu Protard in Paris; Edited by Philippa Fletcher and Alexandra Zavis
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