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» 01.03.2010 - Burundi opposition fields woman candidate for elections
» 22.01.2010 - Legislators discuss common market protocol in Burundi
» 11.12.2009 - Burundi faces funding shortfall for elections
» 30.10.2009 - Last Burundian refugees repatriated
» 02.10.2009 - US awards contract for the construction of new embassy in Burundi
» 30.07.2009 - SA formally withdraws from Burundi
» 14.05.2009 - Over 200 political prisoners in Burundi released
» 12.05.2009 - Burundi doctors continue strike over pay

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HRW calls on Burundi to halt deportation of refugees

afrol News, 16 October - The International Human Rights body, has urged the Burundian government to stop forced deportations of Rwandan asylum seekers under false pretences that their refugee status has been denied.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Burundi has pressurised many of the asylum seekers to return to Rwanda earlier this week, appealing for proper review of their asylum status.

The rights body said Burundian authorities have agreed to halt the expulsions following queries by international rights organisations.

"We are glad that Burundi has agreed to follow international law and evaluate the claims of these Rwandan asylum seekers," said the Africa director at Human Rights Watch Georgette Gagnon.

HRW said Rwandans crossed into Burundi's northern provinces of Kirundo and Ngozi over the past several months, saying by late September, an estimated 400 Rwandans were in Burundi fearing persecution by the government.

“Without individually evaluating their claims and under significant pressure from Rwanda, Burundi's minister of interior, Edouard Nduwimana, declared on 8 October that all the Rwandans should be rapidly expelled,” HRW said in a statement.

According to the organisation, on Monday, the Burundian government delegation including the police commissioner met with the Rwandan asylum seekers in Kirundo and informed them, that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had refused them refugee status.

“They were told that they would be forced out if they did not leave voluntarily. Many reportedly left for Rwanda the next day,” it said.

Reports said Kirundo provincial authorities tried to force another 17 Rwandans to leave the country on 14 October, but Burundi's new national refugee agency, the National Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless People (ONPRA), intervened to stop the deportations.

Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency has pleaded with Burundi to stop deporting hundreds of Rwandan Hutus have who fled across the border in recent months.

UNHCR's Clementine Nkweta Salami took a bold stance and denounced forced deportations of asylum seekers saying the Burundian government should properly review the status of the refugees in the country.

However, the Rwandan authorities have said many of the Rwandans who are seeking asylum in Burundi are fleeing for fear of appearing before traditional courts trying suspects in the 1994 genocide.

Reports said in 2006, over 19,000 Rwandan Hutus fled to neighbouring Burundi to evade the traditional courts.

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