RUSIZI - The government has requested Burundi to suspend hasty expulsions of Rwandans who have been living in Burundi as the number of evictees nears 800.
Burundi last week launched a crackdown on illegal immigrants and Rwanda had been ‘unexpectedly’ receiving hundreds of its citizens.
The Executive Secretary of the National Council for Refugees, Innocent Ngango, revealed that as of yesterday, at least 776 Rwandans had already arrived in the country.
“The expulsions occurred unexpectedly…some of the people driven out had established themselves in Burundi and had assets there while others were illegal immigrants,” he said.
Those expelled include Rwandans who left their country in 1950s, 1970s and during the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis. According to government officials, the country has requested Burundi to halt the expulsions of Rwandan until the two countries discuss their issue.
“Issues to do with refugees are normally discussed in joint commissions of the two countries…we have written to Burundi and requested them to suspend the operations until a decision is taken by a joint commission,” said Joseph Kabakeza in charge of bilateral and multilateral cooperation with Rwanda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (MINAFFET).
Most of the returnees arrived in Rwanda via Ruhwa border post in Rusizi District of the Western Province. Both immigration officials at the border and the returnees said that the displaced were forcibly repatriated by Burundian military officials who handed them over to Rwandan officials at the border.
“We have been chased from Burundi by their military personnel without even prior notice and they never allowed us to pack our properties. We call upon the government of Rwanda to help us recover our property,” said Christopher Habamenshi, one of the evictees.
Most of them have been living in areas of Rugombo, Mugina and Mabaya communes of the North-Western Burundian Province of Cibitoke, near Rusizi District. Others were from the Burundian capital, Bujumbura.
Kabakeza hopes there could be a solution to their worries after talks are held with Burundian officials. He said that one of the possible solutions will be giving them travel documents to Burundi so that they can claim their properties back.
“We will devise means to sort out those problems,” he said in an interview yesterday.
Burundian media have reported that whereas some Rwandans were willing to come back home, a bigger number wanted to stay in Burundi.