Rwanda centre overstretched by Burundi refugee influx

Thursday March 8 2018

Mahama refugee camp in eastern Rwanda.

Mahama refugee camp in eastern Rwanda. The camp hosts more than 50,000 Burundian refugees. PHOTO | NMG 

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Rwanda has said the centre hosting 2,544 Burundian refugees who left DR Congo on Wednesday for fear of deportation is overstretched.

According to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (Midimar), the Nyarushishi refugee transit centre in Eastern Province has a hosting capacity of only 650 refugees.

“They will be at the transit centre for a while until registration is complete,” said Claude Twishime, the communications officer at the ministry.

“They started arriving at the border post in the evening on Wednesday in big numbers,” he said.

The refugees said they left DRC for fear of repatriation. They claimed they fled Burundi due to religious persecution.

In January, the refugees, who belong to a Catholic sect, said aid agencies stopped providing them relief after they refused biometric registration, which they said would have violated their religion.

The United Nations refugees agency, UNHCR, external relations officer, Daniela Ionita, told The EastAfrican on Thursday that they were taking measures to ensure that basic provisions such as food, water and shelter are provided.

Mr Twishime said the refugees are likely to be relocated to the Mahama camp in the province.

Mahama hosts more than 50,000 Burundian refugees.