Rwanda National Police and immigration have called on the public to be cautious of people who pose as well-wishers offering them opportunities abroad, noting that such people are likely to be human traffickers.
The call follows the rescue of 28 people who were duped into believing they could get a better life in Australia only to find themselves stuck midway in Burundi where they had been taken apparently to process travel documents.
The victims say that they met a certain pastor during a crusade at Evangelical Restoration Church in Masoro, Gasabo District, who convinced them that there was an opportunity for them to get a better life in Australia, at a specific cost.
“This man presented to me and my family a number of opportunities that we would get if we went to Australia. He requested for Rwf2.4 million which we gave him saying that it was for processing our travel documents for me, my husband and our five children,” Julienne Kamariza, one of the victims said.
“He convinced us that there was an easier way of getting a visa from Burundi. However, when we reached in Burundi, we got stuck there for two months until when we decided to return and we were received by officials from immigration at the border,” she added.
Another victim, James Buyinza, a father of three says a certain person whom he only identified as Pastor Eric, convinced him that he was to get a good house and a job in Australia, if he had travelled under the missionary arrangement.
“He charged us Rwf1 million per person but told us that our children were not going to pay, so I gave him Rwf2 million for me and my spouse…. This is a combination of human trafficking and a con. We are lucky we decided to return otherwise we could have ended up in a terrible situation in probably some country we didn’t expect to be,” said Buyinza.
Like Kamariza, Buyinza also warned the public against people who masquerade as well wishers saying that, “I could have invested my money into something profitable…people should not easily give in to whoever is offering them opportunities abroad.”
The victims were yesterday re-joined with their family at an event held at RNP General Headquarters in and witnessed by local leaders from Gasabo, Kicukiro and Nyarugenge districts where the victims reside, and officials from Rwanda Directorate General of immigration and Emigration.
In returning to Rwanda, 13 of the victims entered through Ruhwa border while the other 15 entered through Akanyaru border.
Majority of the victims were women and children.
RNP Spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Celestin Twahirwa, said that although human trafficking is not rampant in Rwanda, it remains a concern that requires everyone’s attention.
“It is sometimes through churchea they were lured into this inhuman act; church leaders should always endeavour to know details about their congregations and what they are involved into. The same applies to local leaders and anyone in the office of authority at all levels,” ACP Twahirwa said.
“Although the victims have been brought back home and rejoined with families, investigations are still going on to identify and arrest anyone connected to this human trafficking ring,” he added.
He emphasised the need for all Rwandans to come on board to raise awareness and fight against human trafficking.
Paulin Polepole from Rwanda Directorate General of immigration and Emigration, said that human trafficking is a process and it took time to lure the victim and taking them.
“These victims are in different categories, including children who are as young as one year old to those who are as old as 50 years of age…some of these people sold their properties, other took their entire families. This is how sad it is and this is a proof that we should collectively stand up against human trafficking,” Polepole said.
Deogratias Nzabonimpa, the corporate services manager in Gasabo District said that any person who intends to travel should first consult as many people as possible.
“People should open their eyes and understand that human trafficking is real, and change our mindset and put efforts together to fight it,” said Nzabonimpa.