Over 1,000 Arab-origin people living in Burundi may soon become stateless, head of the National Office for Refugee Protection and the Stateless said on Thursday.
Despite living in the country for decades the state does not recognize them as citizens and commonly they are referred to as Arabs.
They are said to be descendants of goods traders or former slave traders who arrived from Asia in the late nineteenth century.
They claim to be from Oman and mostly live in Burundi’s Rumonge province, some 70 kilometers (43 miles) from capital Bujumbura on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.
"They have lived in Burundi for several decades and call themselves Omanis, but the country does not want to welcome them," Jean Bosco Nduwimana told Burundian state broadcaster, Rtnb.
Nduwimana added that the Arab-origin people did not want Burundian nationality. They want to be recognized by Oman.
"Omani authorities had set up a commission of inquiry into their origin and according to their conclusions, these people are not from that country," Nduwimana said.
After being refused by Oman, they now risk being stateless. "With UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees], we will apply the law on stateless persons to them," he said.
The 1954 Convention on Stateless Persons stipulates that: "Every stateless person has duties to the country in which he finds himself, which require in particular that he conform to its laws and regulations as well as to measures taken for the maintenance of public order".
Reporting by Jean Bosco Nzosoba; Writing by Felix Nkambeh Tih