- Title: BURUNDI: Authorities deport foreigners amid concerns over rising crime rates
- Date: 4th February 2009
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (Kirundi) SOPHIE NDUWIMANA, ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT, SAYING: "I want to tell them to let us go home, where we belong. Our native country is Burundi, even though we are Congolese. We were born in Burundi."
- Embargoed: 19th February 2009 12:00
- Location: Burundi
- Country: Burundi
- Topics: Crime / Law Enforcement,Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA7DRCUA9H3QBIDCUY71LL5DS01
- Story Text: Burundi's police have begun the third week of a crackdown on illegal immigrants in the country's capital Bujumbura.
The operation has mainly been conducted in the neighbourhoods of Bwiza and Buyenzi, where officials say trafficking of drugs and arms is on the rise.
These neighbourhoods are home to foreign immigrants including people from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and various parts of West Africa.
Many of those arrested are assembled at a stadium in Bujumbura before being deported.
Several Burundians, who were said not to have adequate identification papers, have also arrested and made to pay fines of about 1.50 U.S.
Many of those detained at the stadium insist that they are Burundian and are being wrongfully deported. They also complain that they have not been given time to prepare to leave the country.
"I am hurt by everything that's going on because I am Burundian but they accuse me of being Rwandan. I was born in Burundi," said Nelly Harerimana, who also said she is married to a Burundian man.
But Burundi's government insists the arrests are lawful and an important step in fighting rising levels of violent crime.
"At the beginning of this year, we decided to strengthen this operation when we realised that many criminal acts are committed by foreigners, who are in the country illegally, especially with armed robberies and murder."
The crackdown has drawn criticism from human rights groups.
"What worries us in this whole situation is that human rights or even the dignity of individuals are not being respected. Even if someone is a foreigner, he needs to be treated with respect and dignity. To make them spend a whole day in the sun, then after that take them away as if they were garbage and then drop them at the border, that is a gross violation of human rights," said Alain Guillaume Bunyoni, Burundi's Minister of Public Safety.
Esperance Zaninka is Congolese of Rwandan descent and has been in Burundi since 2004. She says she spent a week in jail before being dropped off at the border with Democratic Republic of Congo.
"We don't have anywhere to go. I don't know where to go. We'll go back home, but things are bad there now. We'll ask the authorities to help us with refugee status so that we can raise our kids in peace," said Zaninka.
Sophie Nduwimana is a mother of six and second-generation Congolese.
She says she was arrested while taking her youngest child to the toilet, and was not allowed to show the officers her identification papers.
"I want to tell them to let us go home, where we belong. Our native country is Burundi, even though we are Congolese. We were born in Burundi," said Nduwimana.
Human rights activists warn that the operation may damage Burundi's reputation with its neighbours.
Many Africans have clamoured for a immigration policy akin to that of the European Union, where people from member countries can cross each other's borders without visas.
But African leaders again delayed concrete moves towards creating a United States of Africa on Sunday (February 1) at the ongoing African Union Summit in Ethiopia.
So far 1500 foreigners have been deported from Burundi.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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