Burundi Refugees Forced to Join Rebel Forces in Rwanda
Burundian refugees in neighbouring country Rwanda have said they are being forced to join Burundi opposition groups, even implicating Rwandan security officials in the scheme.
The report (PDF) comes from Refugees International, which cites Burundian refugees who claim they are being forcibly recruited by opposition groups from their home nation and sent to military training camps in Rwanda and Congo.
Asylum system being ‘undermined’
The report highlights concerns from Refugee International that the asylum system in Rwanda – which is designed to protect people fleeing the perpetuated violence in Burundi – is being undermined.
It calls on the Rwandan government to ensure the civilian and humanitarian character of the system is maintained, amid claims that security officials in the country could be involved.
The Burundi government has publically accused Rwanda of assisting opposition forces to plan attacks against the state on a number of occasions. Claims from some refugees that Rwandan officials are involved in the recruitment process of Burundi rebel forces will only put further strain on the diminishing relationship between the two nations.
The report is particularly damaging in its description of the recruitment process within Rwanda’s refugee camps. It claims the first complaints from refugees started in May 2015, totalling 50 individuals who were brave enough to voice their concerns by early December.
Describing the recruitment tactics as “aggressive,” the report gives details of the harsh experience suffered by some Burundi refugees after they arrived at camps in Rwanda:
“One refugee who chose not to enlist was told by recruiters that he ‘will disappear into the Akagera river,'” the report reads.
One particular concern for international groups is the trend of recruiting children to take part opposition attacks against the Burundi state. No figures have been given to indicate how many children have been targeted in Rwanda’s refugee camps, however, the report calls on the UN to provide more protection for Burundi refugee children who have been recruited or otherwise affected by armed groups after fleeing their country.