“I fled because I was afraid to die”: Causes of Exile of Burundian Asylum Seekers

Published: 23 Aug 2017

Burundian refugees should “return to their homeland, because peace and security prevail on the whole national territory”, Burundi’s second vice-president, Joseph Butore stated during the Uganda Solidarity Summit on Refugees, held in Kampala in June 2017. Then during a recent visit to Tanzania, Burundi’s president Pierre Nkurunziza expressed a similar message to refugees there.

However, such words are contradicted by the stories of Burundian citizens, who continue to flee fear, insecurity and abuses and seek asylum in its neighbouring countries. Since the political crisis erupted in April 2015, accompanied by serious violence and repression, more than 418,000 Burundian refugees and asylum seekers have left their homes. While there is less open violence now, new arrivals in neighbouring countries largely outnumber the few that have returned to Burundi.

In June 2017, International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) interviewed 30 Burundians who had recently arrived in Uganda, most between April and June. They left Burundi for two main reasons: threats and abuses by members of the Imbonerakure, a youth militia affiliated to the ruling party and killings and enforced disappearances of family members. Some cited gang rapes, torture and illegal detention. For a minority of the asylum seekers, economic motives also played a role in the decision to leave Burundi but always in combination with other reasons. 38,000 Burundians have sought asylum in Uganda for the reasons above, their stories explored in IRRI’s latest report.

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Programmes: Causes of Displacement, Rights in Exile
Regions: Great Lakes Region, Burundi
Type: Library, Paper