UN Refugee Agency to Pull Plug on 260,000 Rwandans

Rwanda refugees evicted from Tanzania on arrival at Rusumo Border post
Rwanda refugees evicted from Tanzania on arrival at Rusumo Border post

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says it will freeze its transport support to 260,000 Rwandan refugees by December 2016 in a move to implement the cessation clause.

The cessation clause for Rwandan refugees that came into effect on 30th June 2013 provides for three options; voluntary repatriation, invocation of refugee status and local integration as well as individual application for refugee status with cogent reasons.

Rwandans went massively into exile since 1959 due to political turmoil dubbed “Hutu revolution” and peaked in 1994 during the genocide against Tutsi.

However, the advent of the Government of Unity shortly after Genocide stepped up efforts for voluntarily repatriation of Rwandan refugees and established programs to reintegrate them to that effect.

In a consultative meeting on the implementation of cessation clause with members of Parliament today, the Minister of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR), Seraphine Mukantabana, said 3,464,553 Rwandans returned home since 1994 but 260,000 are still in exile.

However, the figure might be higher as Democratic Republic of Congo alone claimed it hosts 245,000 Rwandan refugees.

Minister Mukantabana added that the UNHCR will call a halt to transport support by December 2016. This decision will inevitably affect 260,000 people registered as Rwandan refugees by UN refugee body.

In the opening speech, Speaker of Parliament Hon. Donathile Mukabalisa said; “the cessation clause is crucial given the political will of the government and socio-economic achievements in the country.”

In 2013, the government in partnership with the UN agencies put in place the project named “Sustainable Return and Reintegration of Rwandan Returnees.”

The program worth $11 million targets about 70,000 Rwandan returnees aimed at assisting them in areas of housing, food security, education, health and justice.

No cause for refugee status

Mukantabana stressed that “there is no political reason for Rwandan nationals to remain refugees, which is also a standpoint of the UNHCR.

For instance, Rwanda government assists voluntary returnees with transport fees. Moreover, every adult returnee is donated a repatriation package worth $100, as well as vocational trainings which enable them to engage in income-generating projects.

Much as there is political will for bringing back home all Rwandan refugees, there is need to increase sensitization through media. Also stepping up “Come and See” program, online registration for voluntary repatriation are among other strategies put forward by the Ministry to repatriate the remaining Rwandan refugees.

MP Jean Marie Vianney Gatabazi hailed performance of the Ministry saying “You are faring well. I seize this opportunity to extend my gratitude to RPF-Inkotanyi party that struggled to achieve this.”

He called upon the Ministry to invest more efforts in establishing closer ties with families with people living in exile fearing to return home due to personal interests connected to their properties.

The parliamentarians generally commended the online registration for massive repatriation.

Minister Mukantabana indicated that FDLR rebel group and opposition politicians are a major stumbling block to massive repatriation as they used all means to keep them hostage.

The other obstacle she cites is UNHCR workers who discourage refugees to return home for fear that they might lose their jobs.




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