FENADEB: “Hasty return of street children to their families may prove dangerous”

“We are concerned about poor sanitation and inadequate food for children and beggars removed from the streets in the centers where they are temporarily accommodated,” reads the press release of 24 April 2017 by the National Federation of Associations Defending Children’s Rights (FENADEB)

Street children gathered in Jabe transit center

Street children gathered in Jabe transit center

Since 23 April, Burundi government has been removing all children and beggars from Bujumbura streets. The Minister of the Interior had given an ultimatum of until 19 April for all street children and beggars to have left Bujumbura streets. Those who were removed from the streets have been assembled in the transit centers of Jabe in central Bujumbura.

This campaign to remove children and beggars from the streets was organized jointly by the Ministry of Human Rights, the Ministry Public Security as well as the Ministry of the Interior. They plan to return them to their families of origin. Those who do not have families will be received by foster families.

These street children say they have left their families for several reasons. Some have been abused by their stepmothers, fled poverty in their families while others are accused of committing crimes such as theft, rape… They seem not ready to return to their families.

FENADEB reports 450 people arrested by the police including 48 adults and 402 children in Bujumbura City, in Muramvya, Bujumbura, Kayanza, Cibitoke, Kirundo, Rumonge and Ngozi provinces.

This organization fighting for children’s rights accuses government services of not taking into account the roadmap set in a meeting held in Gatumba in 2017 with government representatives and organizations working in the field of children.

“This roadmap provided for the family reunion as an essential prerequisite for an effective reintegration of these street children into their communities,” says Jacques Nshimirimana, Chairman of FENDEB. He indicates that this prerequisite “of paramount importance” has not been taken into account in the new roadmap amended by the three ministries.

According to Nshimirimana, a precipitous return of these children to their native provinces may be dangerous. He gives the example of children who have committed crimes in their community and that the victims might have not yet pardoned them. “It would be the same for children who were returned to their families ignoring the violence and abuse that had caused them to flee their families,” says FENADEB chairman.

He calls on the Government of Burundi, actors in the field of children and all the stakeholders to meet in order to adopt together a good strategy to implement this campaign.