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|Tanzania Camp Plan For Refugees Refused UK Home|
Ewen MacAskill and Alan Travis
London, February 25, 2004 (The Guardian) – The Home Office is in negotiation with Tanzania over a £4m aid deal to take failed Somali asylum seekers from Britain and house them in a camp, the Guardian has learned.
A Home Office team went to Dar es Salaam last year for discussions with their counterparts in the Tanzanian government.
As part of the negotiations, the Tanzanian government has been offered an extra £4m a year in aid.
Peter Kallaghe, director of communications for the Tanzanian president, Benjamin William Mkapa, who is on a visit to London, confirmed the negotiations but said the plan had not yet gone to the Tanzanian cabinet.
"It is a touchy issue on our side," he said, given that Tanzania is already home to 400,000 refugees from neighboring wars. "Any decision would not be taken very easily."
The disclosure of the Tanzanian option coincided with the announcement that forced returns of failed Iraqi asylum seekers are to start in April. The decision, which will initially involve about 30 a month being sent to northern Iraq, provoked protests from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that the continuing violence made the move premature.
The exploratory talks over the Tanzanian deal and the decision to begin forcible returns to Iraq - as well as some returns direct to Somaliland - are part of a concerted drive to step up the removal of rejected asylum seekers from Britain.
It was also announced yesterday that a 330-place removals center is to be built at Heathrow to bring the total detention places for those facing deportation up to 2,700 by the end of the year.
Moving failed asylum seekers to Tanzania would create an important precedent. Until now, a third country has not been an option: asylum seekers have either been allowed to remain in Britain or returned to their country of origin.
The Somalis, fleeing from civil war, make up the largest number of asylum seekers in Britain and the Home Office is under pressure to bring down the numbers. More than 6,000 applied for asylum in Britain in 2003, of whom 3,800 were refused permission to stay.
British officials were touchy about the issue yesterday, fearful that the Tanzania scheme would be portrayed as dumping asylum seekers in poor countries.
A camp in Tanzania could offer a processing point for Somalis seeking asylum as well as a home for failed asylum seekers.
The Tanzanian negotiations put flesh on a confidential Home Office plan leaked to the Guardian last year that outlined ways of slashing the number of refugees, primarily by sending them to a third country.
A spokeswoman for the Home Office said last night: "We have been talking to the Tanzanians about various immigration issues."
These included help in identifying east Africans falsely claiming to be Somalis in the hope of securing British residency.
She denied that Tanzania was being offered money to take Somalis, but said that Tanzania could be given cash help in tackling its refugee problem.
Following the trade for aid rows of the 1980s, British law restricts the terms on which aid can be given, and compensation for taking asylum seekers is not one of them.