Rwanda expels 15,000 ”illegal” Burundians

Burundian refugees.Photo credit/UNHCR

Burundian refugees. Photo credit/UNHCR

The government of Rwanda has over the last few days expelled about 15,000 Burundians and sent them back to the conflict-wrecked East African nation allegedly for living in Rwanda illegally.

Despite the fact the fact that move has been viewed as retaliatory given the tense relations between the two neighbours, the authorities in Kigali were quick to reveal that the removal action was targeting thousand of Burundian refugees in Rwandan camps.

Seraphine Mukantabana, the Minister of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, said the expulsion was part of a massive crackdown on illegal immigrants in Rwanda. She said “We had a number of Burundians scattered across the country who had no documents”

According to Burundian local officials, Rwanda first ordered Burundians to go to refugee camps but they refused thus the decision to expel them.

“They were asked to go to refugee camps or return back to Burundi, those who refused to go to refugee camps were chased … and stripped of their possessions,” said Melchior Nankwahomba, the governor of the Burundian province of Kirundo, near Rwanda.

Rwanda has been home to more than 24,000 Burundian refugees since April last year when President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for the third term ignited the current conflict that has forced over 200,000 Burundians into exile in neighbouring countries.

The refugee issue has negatively impacted diplomatic ties between Rwanda and Burundi as the latter has accused the former of recruiting, training and arming Burundian refugees with the purpose of “destabilizing” Burundi. Rwanda has dismissed these allegations.