Burundians, Fleeing Political Violence, Find Welcome in Canada

Thousands have fled to refugee camps in Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, where they face reprisals from marauding Burundian militias that have carried out targeted killings, human rights groups and refugees say.


Burundians in 2015 aboard a boat taking them to Tanzania. In refugee camps there, they face reprisals from Burundian militias.

Jerome Delay/Associated Press

The disappearance of the Burundian teenagers, including two who the Metropolitan Police Department on Tuesday confirmed had been found safe in Canada, thrust a simmering African crisis into the international spotlight and underscored Canada’s reception to those seeking refuge from war and political violence.

As the administration of President Trump is seeking to stanch the flow of refugees into the United States, Canada has taken the opposite approach. In May, the Canadian government designated refugee claims from Burundi, along with those from Afghanistan, Egypt and Yemen, as eligible for expedited processing, allowing the authorities to accept the claims without a hearing. The expedited-processing policy, put in place in 2015, also applies to refugees from Syria, Iraq and Eritrea.

Canada’s tightknit Burundian community of roughly 10,000 has welcomed the stream of new arrivals since the crisis erupted. Over the past two years, Canada’s Refugee Protection Division has approved claims from 690 Burundians, according to government figures. More than 2,000 Burundian refugees have arrived in the United States in the past two and a half years, according to the State Department.

Benjamin Manirakiza, first counselor in the Burundian Embassy in Washington, denied that the government was targeting opponents, and said the teenagers were probably seeking a better life in North America.

“Burundi went through troubles, and security now is not perfect,” he said. “Maybe they are seeking more…

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