In October 2019, over 250 refugees were airlifted from Libya where they had been living under harsh conditions. Many had been held against their will by armed groups, sold on the open market, extorted and women raped.
Rwanda had volunteered to host the refugees whether permanently or while waiting to be relocated to a third country. Many were immediately relocated to European countries but the exercise was interrupted by the outbreak of the Coronavirus.
Today, the country is home to about 150,000 refugees mostly from Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo as well as 13 other countries including Haiti and Afghanistan.
Burundian refugees started streaming in in 2015 when violence broke out in the run-up to the late President Pierre Nkurunziza’s vying for a third term. Most of the over 70,000 refugees were settled at Mahama refugee camp which in a short time transformed into a model camp with decent amenities and services.
Many Rwandans have an unforgettable experience as refugees and know the meaning of losing one’s dignity and it was not about to let people who turned to them for help experience the same. The least the country could do was try to give them a decent environment to thrive as long as they wished.
With the recent changes in Burundi, some of the refugees feel assured that security in their country is enough to guarantee their safety and have expressed wishes to be repatriated. The government has expressed its willingness to help them return home according to their wishes and its doors are always open to all those persecuted, just as some countries once accorded them that same favour.