Burundi teens from robotics competition flee to Canada

22 July, 2017, 00:40 | Author: Alicia Barber
  • 6 teenagers from African robotics team missing after competition in DC

Six teenagers that represented Burundi at the First Global robotics challenge in Washington, DC went missing after the competition.

Two of the Burundians - Audrey Mwamikazi, 17, and 16-year-old Don Ingabire - were spotted crossing the U.S. border into Canada, Washington District of Columbia police spokeswoman Margarita Mikhaylova said.

The competition drew national attention a week ago when a team of six girls from Afghanistan was twice rejected for USA visas. Tuesday was the last day of the competition and the six teenagers disappeared some time after that.

Escotto said he believed the Burundi team members had attended closing ceremonies which began at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

FIRST Global President Joe Sestak, a former Admiral and congressman who also served in President Bill Clinton's administration, initially called police and "proper follow on reports have been submitted to the police who are investigating the case", the organization said.

"Security of the students is of paramount importance to FIRST Global", the event organizers said in a statement. Police said they suspected no "foul play", feeding speculation that the group wanted to avoid returning home.

The teens seen crossing into Canada were Don Ingabire, 16, and Audrey Mwamikazi, 17, Brown said.

The teens traveled to the US from the small east African country on one-year visas to attend the competition, the station reported.

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

The competition in the USA capital, which is created to encourage youths to pursue careers in math and science, attracted teams of teenagers from more than 150 nations.

If they make an application, he said, Immigration and Customs Enforcement could seek to detain the teens pending removal proceedings.

Burundi has been engulfed in a violent unrest since 2015, when the country's president was re-elected to a third term in office.

This year, the teens were given engineering tasks such as storing of drinkable water, filtering contaminated water and procuring of new sources water.

During the 2012 Olympic Games in London, 21 athletes from Africa went missing or claimed asylum, including members of national teams from Congo, Cameroon, Sudan, Ethiopia, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Cameroon.

Burundi, an East African nation of about 10 million people who speak the local Kirundi language and French, has faced sporadic violence in recent years.

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

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