Parfait Hakizimana is in the first-ever Refugee Paralympic Team ©UNHCR

Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation (THF) coach Parfait Hakizimana has been included as a representative of his sport in the first-ever Refugee Paralympic Team.

Hakizimana, a Burundian refugee living in the Mahama Refugee Camp in Rwanda, was one of six athletes named in the team in different sports.

Hakizimana is set to compete in the men's under-61-kilogram division when taekwondo makes its Paralympic debut.

Until a few months ago, Hakizimana was based in the Mahama Refugee Camp, the biggest in Rwanda with more than 50,000 refugees. 

More recently, he has been training in Rwandan capital Kigali.

At the camp, Hakizimana organised a taekwondo school and has trained in excess of 1,000 refugee children.

He has also prepared himself for elite competitions.

He competed in the 2017 African Open Championships in Kigali, where he won his first match before losing 18-12 to the top-seeded, three-time world champion Aythami Santana Santana of Spain in the under-61kg K44 quarter-finals.

As a refugee, it has been hard for Hakizimana to receive the necessary visas to travel to tournaments, making classification challenging, but World Taekwondo assured he would be reclassified before the August 1 deadline.

"We are thrilled with the announcement that Burundian refugee Parfait Hakizimana will be representing the Refugee Team at the Tokyo Paralympic Games this summer," said World Taekwondo President Chungwon Choue, who also chairs the THF Board.

"Few athletes have had to overcome the conditions of Mr. Hakizimana, who until recently lived, taught, and trained in Rwanda’s Mahama Refugee Camp."

While living in a camp for internally displaced people in 1996 because of the Burundian Civil War, he lost his mother and received an injury that left his left arm permanently debilitated when he was eight.

Fearing for his life, he later left the country permanently when unrest in Burundi flared up again in 2015.

Hakizimana has since been living at the Mahama Refugee Camp in Rwanda.

"Refugees don’t have a lot," he told the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees website, "but sport helps them forget their troubles."

The Refugee Paralympic Team represents more than 82 million people worldwide that have been forced to flee war, persecution, and human rights abuses - 12 million of whom live with a disability.

Parfait joins a team of six refugees for the Paralympics that also includes Ibrahim Al Hussein, a Syrian refugee living in Greece, who is a swimmer; Alia Issa, a Syrian refugee living in Greece and club thrower; Abbas Karimi, an Afghan refugee living in the United States, who is another swimmer; Anas Al Khalifa, a Syrian refugee living in Germany and canoeist; and Shahrad Nasajpour an Iranian refugee living in the United States who will compete in the discus.

The Refugee Paralympic Team will compete under the IPC flag and will be the first team to enter the National Stadium during the Opening Ceremony.