Rwanda reassures voluntary repatriation of Burundi refugees

The Ministry in charge of Emergency Management (MINEMA) has said that Rwanda reaffirms the principle of voluntary repatriation as a durable solution for refugees, in accordance with international and Rwandan law.

The Ministry issued the statement on voluntary repatriation of refugees on August 3, 2020 following an appeal of more than 330 Burundian refugees who petitioned Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye seeking a dignified and lawful return to their home country.  

 

The New Times understands that the petition drawn up on July 26, 2020, was signed by five Burundian refugees representing the 331 refugees who support it.

 

 “Rwanda reiterates its commitment to the protection of refugees on its territory, and stands ready to facilitate the safe and dignified return of those who choose to repatriate, in collaboration with UNHCR [a UN agency mandated to protect refugees] and relevant governments,” the statement reads.

 

They also copied the Government of Rwanda (the Ministry of Emergency Management), and the UN agency for refugees (UNHCR).  

 “We wish for bilateral talks between Burundi and Rwanda in the presence of UNHCR so that we gain our rights and dignity and return home,” reads part of the petition.

Emmanuel Bizimana, and Celeus Hatungimana, two of the co-signatories to the petition, told The New Times that they fled because of the political crisis and insecurity stemming mainly from former Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid to serve a controversial third term.

But, they contended that peace has been restored in their country based on the fact that the third term threat was over, and an elected President is currently leading the country.

Nkurunziza, who died on June 8 this year (2020), was replaced by Evariste Ndayishimiye.

Article 17 of the law relating to refugees which was enacted in 2014 provides six conditions 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.

Data from UNHCR show that Rwanda is hosting around 77,000 refugees from DRC, and 71,000 refugees from Burundi among others, in camps and urban settings.

According to UNHCR, as a result of election-related tensions in neighbouring Burundi, Rwanda opened its border to Burundian refugees who have fled the country since April 2015.

Mahama Refugee Camp located in Kirehe District in the Eastern Province has become the country’s largest camp – hosting Burundian refugees since the emergency. It has a population of around 60,000 refugees.

entirenganya@newtimesrwanda.com

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