Rwanda police arrest 33 Burundian refugees

By The Eastafrican

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Rwanda police have arrested 33 Burundian refugees accused of inciting others to reject biometric registration.

The police said officials from the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, the Ministry of Health, and the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, had visited three camps hosting Burundian refugees for a physical verification exercise on Wednesday.

“As refugees gathered for the exercise, their leaders started to incite them to reject any assistance from these institutions,” a police statement reads.

“As a result of instigating violence among fellow refugees, 33 ringleaders were identified and arrested,” the statement said.

The police detained 31 refugees at Gashora Transit Centre in eastern Bugesera District, one person at the Nyarushishi Transit Centre in western Rusizi District and one other at Muyira Transit Centre in Nyanza District, Southern Province.

The refugees are accused of endangering the lives of others in the camps as well as those of the officials.

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According to officials, the refugees are part of some 2,500 Burundians who came into the country early this month from Democratic Republic of Congo fearing deportation.

The group, which belongs to a Catholic sect, claimed they fled Burundi due to religious persecution.

Two weeks ago, Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs minister Louise Mushikiwabo said the government was yet to figure out how to deal with them because of their “strange religious beliefs”.

Ms Mushikiwabo said they refused biometric registration and vaccination or modern medicine, a situation that Rwanda’s policies and laws don’t allow.

The arrests on Wednesday come just a month after 11 Congolese refugees in Kiziba camp in western Rwanda were shot dead by police during a food protest.

Rwandan authorities claimed those killed had attacked the security officers.

More than 17,000 refugees have been protesting against a 25 per cent cut in food rations since January by the UN World Food Programme as a result of underfunding.

Reached for comment over the arrests the UNHCR said it was assessing the situation and would issue a statement. By the time of publishing this story, email queries by The EastAfrican were yet to be responded to.