The United Nations expressed concern over a plan by Rwanda’s government to relocate refugees fleeing violence in East African neighbor Burundi.
Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo’s comments earlier Friday describing a plan for the relocation of people displaced by Burundi’s nine-month political crisis “seems to undermine the precedent of refugee protection Rwanda has set over decades,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said in an e-mailed statement. Rwanda hosts about 72,175 Burundian refugees.
UN officials in Rwanda held an urgent meeting with the Minister for Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs Seraphine Mukantabana, who said the country would continue to respect its international obligations and wouldn’t close borders or forcibly expel refugees, according to the statement.
Landlocked Burundi, home to 6 percent of the world’s nickel reserves, has been roiled by violence that’s killed about 440 people since President Pierre Nkurunziza decided in April to stand for a third term. The U.S. this week expressed concern that Rwanda could be training rebels to fight in Burundi, further destabilizing its neighbor.