Cash incentive boosts number of returnees

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Returnees from Mali arrive at Kigali International Airport in 2013. / File

Months after the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) announced a cash incentive to any Rwandan refugee returning home, the number of returnees has significantly improved, officials have said.

A cash incentive of $250 (about Rwf200,000) goes to any adult refugee and $150 (about Rwf125,000) to any of their minors who return home before the end of 2017. The offer is being provided in partnership with Airtel Rwanda and I&M Bank.

Besides the money, the returnees are offered free medical insurance for a year, a free mobile phone and free transportation to any destination within the country.

UNHCR communication and public information officer Eugene Sibomana said since its launch, there has been a considerable improvement in the numbers of new arrivals.

“In April alone, 553 returnees were received and a total of 1,365 returnees have been received this year so far. Most returnees in April were heading to Nyabihu, Karongi and Ngororero districts,” he said.

Some 71,130 returnees have been received since 2009 and a total 3,436,073 since 1994.

However, there have been reports of fraudulent cases where people falsely claim to be returnees to benefit from the incentive. Some 69 such cases were reported in April alone, 64 of them in Rubavu District, and another five in Cyangugu District.

All the returnees are from DR Congo.

However, Sibomana said mechanisms to detect such false claims have since been put in place.

“As long as money is involved, you are definitely going to have such cases but we have a strong system in place in collaboration with National ID Agency to detect such cases,” he said.

The Head of Airtel Money, Steve Gasana, said the process has been smooth and the company’s provision of the service was especially subsidised to help the returnees to settle in.

“It has been an ongoing process and what we do is to provide them a platform that begins with registering them with our system and giving them support on the ground in terms of helping them access the money that they have been paid. In terms of direct returns, we are not making much because we are not charging them the way we charge everyone else. Our role is to provide support and help them settle in,” he said.

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