Biruta: Burundian refugees free to return home

Mahama refugee camp in Kirehe District.Rwanda currently hosts over 71,000 Burundian refugees making the country the 3rd highest host of refugees in the region. / Sam Ngendahimana

Rwanda has no problem with the return of Burundian refugees back to their country, as alleged by officials from the neighbouring country, according to Dr. Vincent Biruta, the Foreign Affairs Minister.

He said that the sentiments are rather shocking especially given the efforts made by the government to host Burundians and facilitating those returning home.


Biruta said that Rwanda currently hosts over 71,000 Burundian refugees making the country the 3rd highest host of refugees in the region.


“This implies that there are refugees in other countries; have they been held hostage too in those countries?” he posed.


He reiterated Rwanda’s principle of voluntary repatriation, in accordance with international and Rwandan laws, for those who wish to return home and readiness to work closely with stakeholders and partners in the process.

A meeting is scheduled to be held on Thursday August 13 between stakeholders including UNHCR to work out a plan to repatriate these refugees.

“We have expressed our desire to work with Burundi to ensure that refugees safely repatriate to their home country. Tomorrow there will be a meeting involving all partners to start the process of helping refugees to return home," Biruta said.

On comments allegedly made by top officials in the Burundian Government that Rwanda was holding refugees hostage, he said that they do not reflect the truth as factually, some refugees attempting to return home previously had been barred by their own authorities.

 Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, at least 200 refugees would return to their country without any issue, he said.

Over 330 Burundian refugees settled at Mahama Camp in Kirehe District, in June write appealing for a dignified and lawful return to their home country, in a petition to the Burundian President, Evariste Ndayishimiye.

Article 17 of the law relating to refugees, which was enacted in 2014, stipulates six provisions for the cessation of refugee status.

They include that refugee status shall cease for any person who has voluntarily re-availed him/herself of the protection of the country of his/her nationality.

The Rwandan government has also expressed interest to normalize ties with the new Burundian government and has since reached out through formal and informal means, the Foreign Minister said.

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