Six teenagers from the East African country of Burundi traveled to Washington D.C. for the FIRST Global Challenge international robotics competition.
Now, according to NBC News, all members of the Burundian robotics team have disappeared.
Two of the teens, Audrey Mwamikazi and Don Ingabire, were sighted crossing the border to Canada. It is suspected that the two teens are seeking asylum in that country.
If that is the case, the teens could either be detained or could allowed to stay in the country on bond.
All six Burundian teens had one year visas to stay in the U.S.
The Washington D.C. police claim that there is no evidence of foul play in their disappearance, particularly given that the team's coach says they left the keys to their rooms in his bag. Nevertheless, the teens have been labeled missing persons by D.C. police, who are working to find the missing teens.
According to the U.S. State Department, “The political situation in Burundi is tenuous, and there is sporadic violence throughout the country, including frequent gunfire and grenade attacks by armed groups.”
Human Rights Watch, has cited several human rights abuses within the country.
The Burundi government has been accused of manipulating the justice system and of reporting biased and misleading information to bolster its legitimacy; there is a lot of violence as a result of opposition within the country.
Trouble in nearby nations has also had a negative effect on quality of life in the country.
“Rebel forces, ex-combatants and youth gangs have crossed into Burundi from the Democratic Republic of Congo and attacked and kidnapped civilians,” according to the U.S. State Department.
Oscar Niyiragira, chairman of the United Burundian-American Community Association, called the disappearances disappointing and went onto say, “Economic impoverishment, rather than political persecution, is the driving force in people’s decision to seek asylum from Burundi … It unfairly tarnishes Burundi’s reputation when people flee and exaggerate the fears of violence.”
As of now, there is no definite explanation for the disappearance of the teens. The investigation is ongoing.