Concern mounts over Burundi refugees
AS THE world yesterday marked World Refugee Day, the UN drew attention to the Nyarugusu refugee camp in Tanzania, which is the third largest in the world.
Burundi refugees in Tanzania alone are estimated at 237 393 out of a total of 423 056 recorded refugees in the region. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the camps in Tanzania were overcrowded as people continue to flee atrocities by Burundi’s militias.
Sixty percent of the refugees arrived between June last year and this month, as the youth wing of Burundi’s ruling party known as Imbonerakure increased patrols and hunted opponents.
Imbonerakure militia are accused of rape, secretly killing opponents, torture and other atrocities, say UNHCR investigators. Many refugees come from the eastern part of Burundi, where the militias are particularly active.
“The greatest jump in refugee flows comes from Burundi’s eastern provinces, where Imbonerakure mobilisation, patrols, roadblocks, recruiting and attacks have been concentrated,” World Relief said.
The Burundi government is not precise about the number of refugees who have left the country. Officially, between 200 000 and 250 000 fled the country over “rumours”. However, the government says 150 000 of those who fled returned home.
Last week, Burundi faced pressure from Tanzania, Uganda and other regional countries to respect human rights. “This is a great move in the Burundi crisis. It is the first time that Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan and other countries called openly on the regime in Burundi to respect human rights,” Gabriel Rufyiri, a Burundian activist, said from Geneva.
The crisis in Burundi has cost the lives of more than 1 200 according to rights groups, although the Burundi government claims there have only been 720 victims. UNHCR projects that the number of refugees will rise to 500 000 this year.