Refugee status denied for fleeing Rwandans

Senior Burundian and Rwandan officials decided on Wednesday that Rwandans who have been fleeing to northern Burundi since the beginning of April would not be accorded refugee status.

According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR, an estimated 7,200 Rwandans have so far fled to Burundi's northern provinces of Kirundo and Ngozi and more are expected. By last week, some 1,800 had been transferred to the Songore and Mishiha sites in the eastern province of Cankuzo.

Some of the newly arrived Rwandans said they were escaping prosecution from Rwanda's special justice system known as "Gacaca"; which the government created to bring to trial thousands of people suspected of having taken part in the 1994 genocide in which 937,000 died, according to the government's latest figures.

A request by Rwanda for Burundi to extradite all those who had fled was rejected, with Burundian officials saying they would only extradite those whose names were found to be on Rwanda's list of alleged perpetrators of the genocide. The Burundian officials at the meeting reportedly said that extraditing all the Rwandans would be an infringement of international regulations.