The UN refugee agency on Tuesday appealed for Mozambicans fleeing violence to be given access to asylum in Tanzania, according to a statement.
The statement said the UNHCR and its partners have received worrying reports that several thousand Mozambicans have been pushed back from Tanzania into northern Mozambique since last year.
More than 30,000 people have fled the coastal town of Palma since it came under attack by armed groups on March 24, the UN said last month.
Since 2017, the conflict in northern Mozambique has left tens of thousands of people dead or injured, and forcibly displaced more than 700,000 people in Cabo Delgado, Nampula, Niassa, Sofala, and Zambezia provinces.
People told the UNHCR that they trekked for days to the Rovuma River, crossing it by boat to reach Tanzania, from where they were returned by the authorities. Many were women and young children, the UNHCR said.
“UNHCR is alarmed at reports that Mozambicans have been refouled, forcibly returned, and prevented from seeking asylum.
“We call on all parties to allow free movement of civilians fleeing violence and conflict, in search of international protection, safety and assistance, including to respect and fully uphold the right to cross international borders to seek asylum,” it added.
An armed group, locally known as al-Shabaab but with no established links to the armed militant group in Somalia, has wreaked havoc in northern Mozambique since late 2017, killing hundreds, displacing communities, and capturing towns.
The northern province of Mozambique is rich in natural gas, and companies such as France’s Total SE are to extract liquefied natural gas from offshore sites in the Indian Ocean.
The Mozambican Oil and Gas Chamber said in a recent statement that these attacks are directed at disrupting investment in oil and gas projects in Mozambique and terrorizing the local population.