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Rwanda plans to relocate Burundi refugees to other countries

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Burundian refugees at Gashora transit camp in Rwanda. Rwanda plans to relocate the refugees to other countries. FILE PHOTO | DANIEL S NTWARI 

By AFP

Posted  Friday, February 12   2016 at  10:14

In Summary

  • Rwanda is to relocate refugees from Burundi to other countries, the government said Friday, amid accusations Kigali was meddling in the affairs of its troubled neighbour.

Rwanda is to relocate refugees from Burundi to other countries, the government said Friday, amid accusations Kigali is meddling in the affairs of its troubled neighbour.

"The government of Rwanda... will immediately begin working with partners in the international community to plan the orderly and safe relocation of Burundian refugees to third countries," read a government statement that took the UN refugee agency by surprise.

The UNHCR said it was "concerned" over the announcement, saying it "seems to undermine the precedent of refugee protection Rwanda has set over decades."

Last week, UN experts told the Security Council that Rwanda has recruited and trained refugees from Burundi, among them children, who wanted to remove Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza from power.

Burundi has repeatedly accused Rwanda of backing rebels intent on overthrowing the government in Bujumbura. Kigali has fiercely denied the accusations.

"Rwanda readily shoulders its obligations to protect and care for refugees," the government statement said.

"However, experience in the Great Lakes is that the long-term presence of refugees so close to their country of origin carries considerable risks for all involved."

Burundi has been in turmoil since Nkurunziza announced plans in April to run for a third term, which he went on to win. Hundreds of people have been killed and at least 230,000 have fled the country.

Some 75,000 Burundian refugees are in Rwanda, according to UNHCR.

The agency said it had met with Rwandan officials who insisted Kigali "would continue to respect its international obligations to protect refugees, would not close its borders, and would not forcibly expel Burundian refugees."

The UNHCR, in a statement, "urged the government to make such clarifications publicly as soon as possible to prevent panic on the part of refugees in Rwanda."

Violence continues in Burundi. On Thursday, a grenade blast wounded 26 people in the capital Bujumbura, nine of them seriously, the latest in a string of attacks.

"The callous indifference to the well known root causes of instability in Burundi, and the refugee exodus is troubling," Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said.

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