Missing members of Burundi robotics team spotted crossing into Canada

Jul 22, 2017, 00:42
Missing members of Burundi robotics team spotted crossing into Canada

Two teen on Burundi's national robotics team were last seen crossing the USA border into Canada, this city's police department confirmed Thursday.

Police said the teens - four males and two females - from the small east African country were reported missing Wednesday.

The four boys and two girls disappeared shortly after the competition.

Six members of a Burundi robotics team went missing after a Washington, D.C., competition.

The team was last seen near the FIRST Global Challenge around the time of of Tuesday's final matches, the Washington Post reported.

Competition organizer FIRST Global said in a statement that its president, Joe Sestak, made the first call to police about the missing competitors.

"The security of the students is of paramount importance to FIRST Global, and therefore the organization required at least one adult mentor/chaperone accompany each team from each nation", says First Global, adding that the Burundi chaperone "had returned to the dormitories where the entire team was staying, thinking that the students were on another bus shuttle".

"We don't have any indication of foul play and we're continuing to investigate this case", she said.

The other missing Burundians were named as Nice Munezero, 17; Kevin Sabumukiza, 17; Richard Irakoze, 18; and Aristide Irambona, 18. The event previously drew media attention when a team of girls from Afghanistan got rejected for US visas, prompting President Trump to intervene on their behalf.

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The Burundi teens, all of whom have one-year visas, were last seen Tuesday night after the competition concluded, police said.

The ongoing civil war in Burundi prompted the State Department to issue a travel warning in late June, warning USA citizens of "sporadic violence throughout the country, including frequent gunfire and grenade attacks by armed groups".

The competition in Washington, created to encourage youths to pursue careers in math and science, attracted teams of teenagers from more than 150 nations.

The agreement requires people to apply for asylum in the first country where they arrive, unless an immediate family member lives in the other country.

Burundi has always been plagued by civil war and other violence.

The chairman of the United Burundian-American Community Association said many in the community believe Canada offers better odds for asylum, with the Trump administration seeking to minimize illegal immigration.

Burnundi residents face widespread human rights abuses, including murder, rape and torture by political groups, according to Human Rights Watch. FIRST Global President then alerted the police.

Officials at Canada's Border Services Agency, as well as the Burundian embassy in Ottawa, said they had no information on the teens' whereabouts.

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