RWANDA has expelled over 1,500 Burundians in recent days, government officials said Monday, amid worsening relations between the neighbours.
However, Seraphine Mukantabana, Minister of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, said the expulsions were part of a regular crackdowns on those living illegally in the country and were not targeting Burundians specifically.
“We had a number of Burundians scattered across the country who had no documents,” she said.
The crackdown follows the expulsion by Burundi of thousands of Rwandans since April 2015.
Burundi has been in political crisis since then, when President Pierre Nkurunziza controversially decided to run for a third term which he went on to win in a July election.
At least 500 people have been killed and over 250,000 have fled Burundi, raising fears of a return to the civil war fought between 1993-2006.
Philippe Ngabonziza, mayor of the Burundian town of Ntega, close to the border with Rwanda, said 1,320 expelled Burundians had arrived since Friday.
The governor of the neighbouring Ngozi district, Albert Nduwimana, said they had received 218 people over the weekend.
Burundi has repeatedly accused Rwanda of training Burundian refugees with the goal of overthrowing Nkurunziza. Kigali has fiercely denied the accusations.
In February, Rwanda said it would relocate refugees from Burundi to other countries.
However, many of those expelled over the weekend were understood to have lived in Rwanda for years. “Some lived in Rwanda for 10 years of odd jobs. They had to leave everything behind,” Nduwimana said.