Burundi robotics teenagers crossed into Canada after U.S. contest

Jul 22, 2017, 00:42
Burundi robotics teenagers crossed into Canada after U.S. contest

Two teen on Burundi's national robotics team were last seen crossing the US border into Canada, this city's police department confirmed Thursday. According to NBC News, they include two 17-year-old girls and four teenage boys ages 16 to 18.

The six teens - four males and two females - are shown smiling and posing with Burundi's flag on their team page on the competition's website.

The FIRST Global Challenge robotics competition is making headlines again after six teens from the team representing Burundi disappeared.

FIRST Global President Joe Sestak made the 911 call after the team's mentor wasn't able to locate the teens.

The robotics competition for youth from around the world, organized by the nonprofit First Global, had gained worldwide attention after invited participants struggled to get visas.

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"FIRST Global hired a private firm to provide security at Constitution Hall and also ensured that all students can get safely to their dormitories before and after the daily competition by providing our own transportation to the students staying at Trinity Washington University", the statement read.

Police have said they do not believe foul play was involved in the youths' disappearance.

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. In their reports, D.C. Police say the teens all have one-year visas.

Burundi saw an outbreak of political violence in April 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would run for a third term in office. It included 163 teams of high school students from around the globe, including a team of young women from Afghanistan who were initially denied visas twice, leading to global outcry.

There was no indication Thursday that the teens intend to overstay their visas or apply for political asylum in the US, but if they do, the process could take years, according to Hassan Ahmad, an immigration lawyer in northern Virginia not involved in the situation. Many have told Reuters they are fleeing Trump's immigration crackdown.

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In each report, Bindaba told police that each teen "went missing after the competition and he does not know where he could have went".

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 was no official indication on Thursday that any of the teens were trying to avoid returning to their homes in Africa, but a leader in the Burundian community in the United States suggested that they may be intending to seek asylum.

Burundi has always been plagued by civil war and other violence.

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