HomeNewsZim deports refugees over camp violence

Zim deports refugees over camp violence


The United Nations refugees’ agency and the Zimbabwe government have clashed over the impending deportation of five refugees from Burundi accused of being behind violent clashes that rocked Tongogara Refugee Camp in Chipinge last month.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Harare yesterday said they were against the deportation of the Burundians.
But Paurina Mpariwa, the Minister of Labour and Social Services, said she had already signed the necessary documentation and the refugees would be deported from Zimbabwe any time.
“We are not going to allow them back at the camp. We have to deport them to their countries of origin,” Mpariwa said. “We want to set an example. They caused chaos and commotion at the camp. After all there is no longer war in Rwanda and Burundi.”
Marcellin Hepie, the UNHCR representative in Zimbabwe, said he was unhappy with the deportation of the Burundians but promised to fight to ensure the refugees were not deported.
Instead, the UNHCR wants the Burundians resettled in neighbouring countries.
“I am not happy,” Hepie said. “My role is to protect and assist refugees. Like a parent, if you have children and they misbehave you do not disown them.”
He said efforts to convince the government to stop the deportations had failed.
“We tried to advise government to release them because we felt spending two months in remand prison would have been enough punishment,” Hepie said.
“They signed affidavits to say they will no longer misbehave. We used that as a tool to advise state security to release them but unfortunately it did not yield fruit.”
He said he had since met family members of the affected refugees at the camp to ascertain their plans.
“We have been trying to see whether they want to follow their family members,” he said. “One of the affected refugees is a woman with a husband and children at the camp.”
They were arrested and thrown into remand prison in Mutare before being transferred to Harare at the weekend.
“There has been tension for over a year. They (Burundians) claim one group is genuine and the other is not genuine,” Hepie said.
Refugees from Rwanda were engaged in running battles with those from Burundi who were accusing them of misrepresenting themselves to Zimbabwean authorities.
The camp is home to 3 657 refugees mainly from Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo).
Refugees at the camp said trouble started after Burundians accused arriving asylum seekers from Rwanda of misrepresenting details regarding their country of origin.
The refugees said the Rwandans were accused of trying to conceal identities because they feared they could be linked to those wanted in Kigali for participating in the 1994 genocide.

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