Following the announcement by the government of Rwanda to relocate Burundi refugees residing in the country to other countries, refugees prefer to be located to nations of their choice.
Rwanda announced last week that it will soon begin transferring Burundian refugees to third countries to avoid possible consequences that would arise from staying closer to their country of origin for a long time.
Speaking on Sunday, Jean Philbert Nzabandora, 48, one of the thousands of Burundi refugees staying in Mahama refugee camp in Bugesera district, Eastern Rwanda said that they were very safe and comfortable to continue staying in Rwanda than being relocated to unsafe countries.
“If we are to be relocated to other countries, we prefer to go to areas of our choice. We don’t want to be taken to insecure countries where our lives will be in danger,” he added.
Nzabadora who looks after a family of four said that Burundi is still unsafe for them and it does not make any sense if they are relocated to unsafe countries.
Mahama camp located about 160 kilometres away from the Rwanda-Burundi border hosts about 44,000 Burundi refugees, majority being women and children.
“We are appealing to Rwanda and international community to allow us choose our destination. We would love to stay in Rwanda because we are safe and secure together with our families,” said Marie Rose Niyongere, a Burundian refugee in Mahama camp.
Niyongere, 35, noted that they fled Burundi due to insecurity in the country and now they are being told about relocation to other countries.
“We are really worried about our safety and security once we leave Rwanda, because we were more secure in this country,” she added.
Rwanda currently hosts about 75,000 Burundi refugees with the majority being women and children.
They are hosted in six main camps, namely Kiziba in Karongi, Gihembe in Gicumbi District, Nyabiheke in Gatsibo District, Kigeme in Nyamagabe District, Mugombwa in Gisagara District and Mahama in Kirehe District.
Burundi has been in turmoil since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans in April 2015 to run for a third term, which he went on to win despite protests from the opposition.
The small central African nation has repeatedly accused neighbouring Rwanda of backing rebels intent on overthrowing the government in Bujumbura. Rwanda has strongly denied the accusations.
According to Seraphine Mukantabana, Rwanda Minister for Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, Rwanda will relocate refugees to safe countries.
“We have decided to relocate them to other countries since Burundi is not safe for them due to the ongoing conflict in the country,” she noted.
Rwanda has previously requested international partners and organizations to host Burundians living in camps and towns in Rwanda.