The Rwandan government granted asylum on Friday to 283 people of Rwandan decent whom officials in Kigali have classified as refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"At the moment we are looking after them in a refugee camp, Protais Mitali, the Rwandan minister for regional cooperation," said.
The group - 172 children, 62 women and 49 men - were expelled from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo earlier in the week. Local military and civilian officials in the Congo had accused them of being Rwandans.
Mitali said the international community must step in and stop what he described as the ongoing persecution of "Rwandafones" (Congolese speakers of the Rwandan Kinyarwanda language) in parts of Congo’s North and South Kivu provinces.
"We have alerted the United Nations and ambassadors from the permanent five to look into the matter," he said, referring to the permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Congolese authorities had rounded up the refugees from their homes in the town of Kalehe in South Kivu, according to the Rwandan government. The refugees had been detained for two weeks in a military camp in Bunyakiri then transported in trucks to Rwanda by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.
An official of the UNHCR confirmed that all 283 people are second-generation Congolese nationals of Rwandan origin. Their parents migrated to Congo before independence to work as farmers or miners, a UNHCR official in Bukavu told IRIN on Tuesday. The official said many were going to Rwanda for the first time.
Ethnic tensions have risen sharply in Congo, with a wave of hostility directed at Congolese Tutsis of Rwandan origin, also known as Banyamulenge. Many fled into neighbouring Burundi and Rwanda in early June when fighting intensified between dissident and loyal government forces, and when the dissident soldiers loyal to Gen Laurent Nkunda and Col Jules Mutebutsi seized control of Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu.
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