Burundi Robotics Team Goes Missing From US Competition

Six African Teens from Robotics Competition Reported Missing in D.C
Twitter DC Police Dept. via CNN Six teens from Burundi are missing in Washington D.C
Author

22 July, 2017

Two of six members of a robotics team from Burundi that disappeared during a competition in D.C. have been seen crossing into Canada, but it's unclear why and what will happen to the teenagers.

The other four members, including two 17-year-old girls and two boys aged 17 and 18, are also believed to be safe, authorities said.

FIRST Global issued a statement saying its president, Joe Sestak, notified police the youths were missing after the adult mentor for Team Burundi discovered they were missing Tuesday night.

FIRST Global described the competition on its website as an worldwide robotics event where students from almost 160 nations came to Washington to participate in the first of what will be an annual event. They were last seen about 5 p.m. Tuesday, shortly before the event closed around 6:30 p.m.

The "security of the students is of paramount importance to FIRST Global", the organization wrote in a statement Thursday.

Police say they don't expect any foul play.

The teens; Audrey Mwamikazi, 17, Don Ingabire, 16, Aristide Irambona, 18, Nice Munezero, 17, Kevin Sabumukiza, 17, and Richard Irakoze, 18, were last seen on Tuesday at around 5pm in the 1700 block of D Street, police said.

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A team of girls from Afghanistan made global headlines when they were twice rejected for United States visas before President Donald Trump intervened, NBC News noted.

The mentor said the teens traveled from Burundi for the competition and have one-year visas, according to police reports. The competition, which aimed to encourage young people to pursue careers in math and science, included teenagers from more than 150 countries. Bindaba stated that "he does not know where (they) could have went", the police reports said.

Police said they canvassed Constitution Hall with 2nd District officers but did not find the teens.

A spokesman for the group, Jose Escotto, said on Thursday that he could not confirm that authorities had located the teens.

"I have heard it on numerous occasions that individuals have chosen Canada because they don't feel that the USA government is supportive of refugees", said Clarke, who has worked on several cases involving Burudi refugees claimants. In its 2017 report, Freedom House labeled Burundi "not free" and warned that the country is experiencing "a shift toward authoritarian politics and ongoing repression of and violence against the opposition".

The Afghan girls were eventually allowed to travel to the U.S. on a ten-day "parole" permit, after President Donald Trump personally interceded with the State Department, according to the White House. More than 325,000 Burundians have fled the country since 2015, according to HRW.

There are also restrictions on movement, as military and police have checkpoints "throughout the country", the report says.


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