Rwanda and Burundi have announced a plan to carry out a survey to address the issue of illegal settlers in the respective countries.
Officials from both countries agreed on this after a two-day meeting in Bugesera District to discuss free movement of people on Thursday.
The three-month survey is aimed at facilitating illegal settlers in both countries to get identification documents. Last year, over 1,000 Rwandans were deported from various parts of Burundi.
“What we need is for all people to have national identification to help them move and transact business freely,” Edouard Nduwimana, Burundian Interior minister said, warning against illegal movement and settlement.
On visa and work permit fees paid by Rwandans working in Burundi, the official said his government intends to scrap the fees.
“We are currently in the process of revising our laws where all these issues will be addressed and I am optimistic that by the end of this year, people will be able to work freely,” he noted.
Rwandans working in Bujumbura pay $500 (Rwf 336,031) valid for two years and $1,000 (Rwf672,061) to extend the working period.
Burundi still charges work permit fees to all East African citizens which remains a challenge to free movement of labour despite the commitment by other regional partner states to scrap the fees.
James Musoni, the Local Government minister observed that it was imperative to facilitate trade between countries by ensuring free movement of citizens.
He called for immediate implementation of the recommendations agreed upon in the meeting.
“We want our citizens to live and work together for the economic development of our countries. People should be able to access services from both countries freely,” Musoni said.
The two countries are expected to come up with a common position on the matter. The meeting also resolved that no Rwandan or Burundian will again be expelled.
Meanwhile, Nemba border residents complained that they were not allowed to cross to Burundi using their IDs.
“We go to Uganda and Kenya with our IDs, why not Burundi? I cross everyday but I have to go through the immigration process with passports,” Rajab Nshimiyimana, a Rwandan trader said.
Burundi is not yet part of the tripartite arrangement under which citizens use their national IDs as travel documents.
Jean-Paul Nayabagabo, a Burundian farmer and a cross border trader also said it would simplify movement if people freely moved using their IDs.