Refugee Backgrounder: The 1972 Burundians
Cultural Orientation Resource Center (COR Center)
Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL), Cultural Orientation Resource Center
March 2007, 6 pages
Explains the origins, present-day living situation, and future expectations of the "1972 Burundians," who have lived in three camps in Tanzania since fleeing from violent repression by Burundi's Tutsi-led government in 1972. They face spartan and often hazardous conditions in camp life: subsistence on UN food rations, small-scale barter, frequent incidents of rape, and occasional harassment from radical political groups who aggressively recruit in camps and act menacingly toward those who refuse to join them. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is working to relocate the refugees in the United States since they cannot integrate into Tanzania or repatriate to Burundi. Their transition to American life means they need to adapt their customs and cultural mindsets and deal with special needs in the form of diseases and post-traumatic stress disorders. Most individuals require intensive orientation on how to use modern amenities, adhere to daily work schedules, manage finances, and attend formal schooling. They also need to adjust to a comparatively higher life expectancy and possible retirement in their 60's rather than at the age of 40 which is common in Burundi.