Burundi: Deportations not a sign of xenophobia - minister
|Publisher||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)|
|Publication Date||4 February 2009|
|Cite as||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Burundi: Deportations not a sign of xenophobia - minister, 4 February 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/498ab63fc.html [accessed 19 May 2013]|
BUJUMBURA, 4 February 2009 (IRIN) - Human rights activists in Burundi have criticised the government for deporting hundreds of foreign nationals rounded up in the suburbs of Bujumbura, but the authorities say the police are only trying to curb crime.
"There is no xenophobia in Burundi," Public Security Minister Alain Guillaume Bunyoni told reporters. "National legislation and international conventions should be respected while accepting people to reside in Burundi."
As of 1 February, he said, about 400 foreign nationals had been deported. "The police will do all [that is] possible to preserve the rights of people," Bunyoni said.
The security operations in which "foreigners" were rounded up took many by surprise - especially given that Burundi is adapting its legislation to conform to the requirements of the East African Community. This process, observers said, encourages the free flow people and goods.
"The operation must be held [with] strict respect for the norms in matters of immigration," Joseph Mujiji, executive committee member of human rights group League Iteka, told IRIN on 3 February.
"When a person is arrested, he should be given enough [time] to prepare," he said. "They [police] should also take enough time to check the identities of the person." The Burundi authorities, he noted, should regularly check whether residents have permits, rather than act on "one-day decisions".
On 2 February, 159 people were deported from Burundi after a police operation in Cibitoke, a Bujumbura suburb. They included 154 from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), four Rwandans and a Tanzanian.
"I was in class teaching," Majela Bakari from DRC said. "At 9am [local time], the police came and told me to get into their van. I kept telling them I had all the papers, but they refused to listen."
For two weeks now, the police have been checking the IDs of people in different suburbs of Bujumbura. Those found without ID cards are sent to a stadium in Bujumbura where their countries of origin are determined through questioning.
Burundians found without ID cards are fined 2,000 francs (US$1.6) and sent back home, but foreign nationals are immediately escorted to the border.
"I have a residence permit and a refugee card - all the papers allowing me to reside here," Bakari said. "I do not understand why I am [being] chased out. This means all the cards we were given have no value here."
Another Congolese national complained that the operation did not respect human dignity. "We do not refuse to go back home, but we must be given time to go back and take our belongings," he said. "Some have children; others have left all they have."
National police spokesman Pierre Channel Ntarabaganyi said the operation which started in mid-January was a "routine operation held to curb mounting criminality in Burundi".
Burundi has just emerged from years of conflict which saw many of its own people seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.