Two members of a high-school robotics team from Burundi who had been reported missing from an international robotics competition in Washington D.C. were spotted crossing into Canada on Thursday morning, according to authorities. The pair were reported missing on Tuesday night. The Metro Washington D.C. police report that Don Ingabira, 16, and Audrey Mwamikazi, 17, crossed the northern border of the United States and into Canadian territory, leaving behind four members of their team who had also gone missing. Because of stepped up immigration enforcement in recent months in the U.S., illegal immigrants are increasingly using the U.S. as a pass-through to Canada.

Ingabira and Mwamikazi belong to the six-member robotics team from the small east African country of Burundi and were attending the inaugural FIRST Global Challenge robotics competition.

A report by local WLJA news noted that the other four team members were found with family members in the United States. Police said on Wednesday that missing teens -- two girls and four boys -- were last seen near the DAR Constitution Hall at about 5 p.m. on Tuesday, which was the last day of the 3-day event. The other missing teenagers were: Richard Irakoze, 18; Kevin Sabumukiza, 17; Nice Munezero, 17; Aristide Irambona, 18. They were admitted to the U.S. on one-year visas.

On Tuesday night, the team's mentor was not able to locate the six Burundian participants in the competition. The president of FIRST Global Challenge, former Democrat congressman Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania, was the first to call police, according to the organization.

“Security of the students is of paramount importance to FIRST global,” FIRST Global said in a statement. “FIRST Global ensures that all students get to their dormitories after the daily competition by providing safe transportation to the students staying at Trinity Washington University who are always to be under close supervision of their adult mentor and are advised not to leave the premises unaccompanied by the mentor.”

The team’s mentor told police the teens “went missing after the competition and he does not know where [they] could have went.” When authorities attempted to contact an uncle of one of the missing teenagers, they received no response.

The disappearance of the Burundian teams came after the Department of Homeland Security was criticized for refusing admission to the country to six Afghan girls. After an international backlash, President Trump allowed the teens to enter the U.S. They had been denied visas twice. They finished in 99th place but beat 67 other countries, including the U.S.



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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