Rwanda’s minister of disaster management and refugee affairs on Wednesday reiterated her government’s position on the need to relocate the country’s Burundian refugees to other countries.
“We want to talk with UNHCR officials about how to implement this decision,” Seraphine Mukantabana told journalists in Kigali on the sidelines of a high-level meeting to discuss refugee issues.
The meeting was attended by Rwandan officials and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) assistant high commissioner for refugees Volker Turk and Her Royal Highness Princess of Jordan Sarah Zeid, a UN refugee envoy.
Rwanda first announced its stance earlier this year amid accusations by Burundi of Rwanda training rebels seeking to destabilize the Burundi. Rwanda has denied the allegations.
Mukantabana on Wednesday said the relocation of Burundian refugees to other countries will be handled gradually.
It’s not about closing camps for Burundian refugees who genuinely need protection, she said.
Volker Turk said it was important to emphasize that the granting of asylum was a humanitarian and non-political act.
“It is clear that asylum is a non-political act; it’s a humanitarian act. The generosity and hospitality of the people and government of Rwanda is commendable,” he said.
“We are looking at whatever we can do in order to find solutions for refugees. We still have Congolese refugees in the country, we have Burundian refugees in the country, and we hope very much that we can work with all of you to find a solution. We know that keeping people in exile is not going to be the solution,” he said.
Rwanda hosts more than 80,000 Burundian refugees.
Princess Zeid and Turk are on a five-day visit from Oct. 23 to 27 in Rwanda to discuss refugee issues.
Their bilateral consultation with Rwandan officials was preceded by a visit to two refugee camps in the east African country.
The meeting discussed strategic plans for asylum management in Rwanda, with the aim of enhancing the partnership between the UN Refugee Agency and the Rwandan government, which co-lead the refugee response in the country.