Human Right

Burundi Government is proceeding to a census of Refugees

Since 13rd August 2013, the National Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (ONPRA) has started a verification of Refugees who live in Burundi. ONPRA wants to know their profile and its mandate. by Yves Didier Irakoze

Refugees waiting for verification©Iwacu

Refugees waiting for verification©Iwacu

“The process of verification has started in Refugees’ Camps of Bwagiriza at Ruyigi, Gasorwe at Muyinga and Musasa at Ngozi and now we are doing it in Bujumbura City Council where there are around 17,000 refugees and 6,000 whose case is pending,” states Jean Bosco Nduwimana, Coordinator in ONPRA.
He adds that this verification will help to know the number of refugees and where they are from for their exact identification.

“In Bwagiriza Camp for example, we had 10,000 refugees on the list who got assistance, but when we were proceeding to verification, we found that 1,000 were assisted while they were illegal refugees,” declares Nduwimana.
Nduwimana mentions that the census activity will help them know exactly their identity, families’ composition, how and why they came because during wars people come separately. According to him, this explains why their registration becomes confusing and difficult.

“When a war crops up, everyone takes his/her own way to exile, parents can sometimes flee without their children or relatives and vice versa. Then, those who flee after them tend first of all, to follow them where they are; in other terms, they often go to the camp where their parents or relatives are without even being registered by the immigration authorities or UNHCR officials,” deplores Nduwimana.

He states that the verification works also help them have a legal status of refugees; it becomes difficult when male refugees have more than one wife and children who are not recorded in the registry office. According to him, they push them to comply with the immigration law in order to have official identity papers to avoid problems when it’s time to go back home; we also proceed to this verification because refugees are helped differently according to their age.
The ONPRA Coordinator indicates the reason of a spectacular flood of refugees observed here in Burundi nowadays is due to the civil war between the M23 rebels and DRC troops at Southern Kivu which has started since 18th August 2013.

He says that they have received around 1500 refugees from Congo. Among them, some have preferred to go back home for various reasons like their properties and belongings left there, while others have chosen to stay. It is worth mentioning that Burundians living in Congo for many years were identified. The registration has started since 21st August 2013 and we have sent around 342 refugees to Kavumu Camp opened in May, on 26th we sent around 357, and today the 29th , we will send around 350 from the Transit Camp of Kajaga at Bujumbura and Cishemeye at Cibitoke Province to kavumu Camp located at Cankuzo.

According to refugees found at Kajaga Transit Camp, their living conditions are precarious. They don’t have enough food and spend too much time waiting for administrative registration.
Nduwimana says they know the situation and are busy making their file and they have to be patient to be sent to the refugees’ camp. And concerning their food, we work hand in hand with WFP and Red Cross to provide them food, medical care and appropriate police protection.